Spotlight: “Midwinter Fae” edited by Jamie Ferguson

Dance with the Fae on the shortest day of the year!

On the day of the shortened sun
A battle between two kings has begun.
The old year dies, and the Oak King rules
We celebrate with logs of Yule!
But the Holly King is defeated, not dead
To Caer Arianrhod he heads.
Until Midsummer, when they battle again
And the Holly King will once again reign…

Midwinter Fae, the second volume in the anthology series A Procession of Faeries, brings you nineteen tales of magic, beauty, wonder…and sometimes danger, as the Fae can be unpredictable, and follow their own rules.

Midwinter Fae is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

The Faerie Folk come when the veil between the worlds is thin, spinning their sticky-sweet glamour and stealing children away in “The Madness of Survival,” by Dayle A. Dermatis. The only thing standing in their way: a motorcycle gang made up of broken, lost people who managed to escape from the Faerie Realm after their own abductions.

Part human, part fox, Todd is the grandson of Renart, the king of foxes in Diana Benedict’s “Summerland’s Paladin.” He escapes the deadly wrath of his step-brothers, only to find himself in Faerie on the eve of Midwinter. The queen offers him two choices: find a way to keep winter from tightening its grip on the faerie kingdom, or return to the land he came from and face death at the hands of his brothers. But winter is not the only enemy Todd faces in Summerland.

In Leah Cutter’s “The Ice Skating Fairy,” Cindy is stuck on the sidelines with a broken leg, instead of figure skating in the mid-winter jubilee put on by the best teen figure skaters in the state of Washington. Then a fairy appears next to her…and invites Cindy to her own ice skating practice later that evening.

Addie pays quick cash for cursed objects in Leslie Claire Walker’s “Treasure.” That’s how she makes the innocent safeand how she atones every single day for the terrible bargain she made as a young, abused girl on the street. She never speaks of the vile price she paid for freedom or the crime she committeduntil the victim strolls through the door of her shop carrying the worst curse of all.

In “Winternight,” by Eric Kent Edstrom, Two Starside thieves set out to steal coin for their Winternight feast. But when one is framed for murder, they find themselves in deep trouble with the city’s most feared crime boss.

Fairy magic is rich, beautiful, and filled with the threat of danger in Ron Collins’ “First Rays of New Sun.” Unable to return to the mortal world herself, Katazarra is commanded by her fae lord to entice a human man so that he, too, will be trapped in the land of Fairy and stay beyond the Winterfest celebration. But the man knows something that Katazarra doesn’t…or perhaps it’s something she knows, but doesn’t want to remember.

The biggest festival in Stratford, North Carolina approaches in Rei Rosenquist’s “At the Heart of Trickery”: a Midwinter celebration of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the midst of the excitement, the magical powers around town swell. And Chandraa transwoman witch in hidingonce again finds it impossible to hide. And then a friendly stranger appears at Chandra’s window, reaches out…and offers the ability to travel to a whole new world.

Once a warrior of the Seelie Court, Rose now exists as a changeling in a twisted human body devoid of magic in Karen L. Abrahamson’s “A Squalor of Chickens.” Only on midwinter day can she taste magic again, in the form of a single spell that allows her to reconnect the ice-cold Earth with the sun’s life-giving warmth. Her one power is the single most important oneushering in Spring. But then she’s offered the chance to have a real life of her own…

In DeAnna Knippling’s “By Winter’s Forbidden Rite,” a desperate mother summons the spirits as her infant son’s last hope…but what if she’s wrong? A group of women hold a seance on a dark and snowy winter’s night, hoping to summon forth wisdom from beyond the grave in order to save a sickly child. But what is the real nature of the spirit that answers the summons? And will they have to call forth something even worse to save them from what their seance brings?

Brea is the daughter of a fisherman and a sea-wild woman who carried magic in her blood in Anthea Sharp’s “Passage.” Brea’s father is dead, her village banished her, and she barely managed to escape the brigands who robbed her. Now she lives alone in the Realm of Faerie, until the winter day when she follows the taste of the rowan berry and finds herself being chased by the Wild Hunt. But fate has more in store for Brea than a simple existence as one of the fey folk, and when she runs afoul of the Dark Queen, she must embark on an adventure that will change her future…forever.

In the deep cold of a midwinter night, Annalise races through a frozen wilderness to bring her injured father to help in Marcelle Dubé’s “Midwinter Run.” But when she stumbles across a pixie on the frozen river, she will have to face a band of angry Fey who blame her for the pixie’s death. If she leaves, she risks the wrath of the Fey—but if she stays to explain, she risks her father’s life.

In Deb Logan’s “Faery Unpredictable,” Claire Murray, a real live faery princess, is spending her first midwinter holiday with her many-times-removed grandfather, the King of Faery. When her boyfriend Roddy, the Prince of Winter, is accused of stealing the Wyrd Stone, a magical artifact that governs the turning of the seasons, Claire must discover the real culprit before the all important celebration of the Festival of Alban Arthan. Can she clear Roddy’s name before he’s banished from Faery forever?

Samuel Lee spent the past few years creeped out by the strange man who lived next door in T. Thorn Coyle’s “The Stars of Neverwhere.” His mother didn’t understand, but she hadn’t seen the man slide through the shimmering air, his skin as white as moonlight on birch bark, and his chin and cheekbones sharp as knives. And then all the neighborhood cats disappeared. 

After finding out she didn’t get her dream job at the arboretum, Holly takes her normal path home through the city park in Jamie Ferguson’s “The Kiss of the Horned God.” Holly is so upset she doesn’t pay attention to where she’s going, and is startled when she notices the pathand the lights of the cityhave vanished.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Destiny” follows the Shapeshifter Solanda. The Black King wants her to use her special abilities on a job that will change the Fey forever. But Solanda wants to change the life of one child. Can she do both? Or should she do nothing at all?

The Holly vs Oak exhibition fight looks to be the event of the winter, until someone attempts to poison the Holly King in Rebecca M. Senese’s “Holly vs Oak.” Who is trying to kill him and threaten the peace between the normal world and the Nether Realm?

In Stefon Mears’ “A Last Meal for the Holly King,” after Steve’s wife dies he heads for their cabin in the Oregon wilderness, not intending to come back. There’s no point in going on without Jess. He comes across an old man with scraggly, snow-white hair and a sprig of holly tucked in just above his right ear. Steve offers the old man a meal, but what he receives in return surprises him.

What’s a girl to do when her duties as bridesmaid suddenly require her to wear a wedding dress, too? In Brigid Collins’ “Bride Thief,” the bride’s odd family tradition is meant to confuse evil spirits who seek to steal brides away on their special day. Chelsea might think it cute if she weren’t still nursing her wounded pride after her own disaster of an attempted wedding. But Jennifer’s been there for her as she put the pieces back together, so the least Chelsea can do is put on a stupid dress. Besides, it’s not like a real evil spirit is going to steal her away. Right?

On the Boar Islands in the cold North, Eithni awaits Winter Solstice with equal parts pride and fear in “The Giving Year,” by Alexandra Brandt. Eithni, chosen to enter the chamber of the gods, prepares to leave her human community forever. On the other side of the Stone Door, Sable stands guard in anticipation of a successful solstice, when the veil between worlds will lift…and when Sable’s liege, a lightlord of the fae, will claim the human woman who willingly steps across into the Summer realm. But everything changes when Eithni breaks the rules.

Midwinter Fae is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

   
 

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Interview: Midwinter Fae authors – Part 1

Midwinter Fae, the second volume in the anthology series A Procession of Faeries, brings you nineteen tales of magic, beauty, wonder…and sometimes danger, as the Fae can be unpredictable, and follow their own rules.

Midwinter Fae is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

The Interview

Part 1 of the Midwinter Fae author interview includes:

  • DeAnna Knippling, author of “By Winter’s Forbidden Rite”
  • Eric Kent Edstrom, author of “Winternight”
  • Deb Logan, author of “Faery Unpredictable”

What do you enjoy about weaving elements from mythology, legends, and folklore in your own writing?

DeAnna Knippling
I really like finding new ways to include old patterns. In a different story, “The Rusalka,” I included a traditional Slavic spirit that might have started out as a pagan god, or might have started out as the legend of a woman who either committed suicide because of a lover, or been murdered by him (the former seems more probable). Rusalkas drown young men by seducing them, then dragging them to the bottom of lakes. The young men are often portrayed as being blameless, but hey, aren’t they all?

In my story, the modern rusalka homes in on a man’s lover who is using him as a drug mule and about to get him killed. The man lives in the same apartment building as the rusalka, that’s all, but her job is killing bastards, and bastards she must kill. Is it justice?

To the survivors, the women in the old Russian folktales who outlive their drowned lovers, and in the story, the main character, who outlives his bastard boyfriend, maybe it is.

I both like and hate that life hasn’t changed that much, since the forests were thick and the lakes were deep.

Eric Kent Edstrom
Mythology and legends give depth to stories because they immerse the reader in the culture in which the action is happening. Midwinter is a particularly atmospheric moment because by definition it’s the darkest of days. The very idea of it provides loads of atmosphere in which a story can happen. And I love, love, love atmosphery stories.

Deb Logan
I’ve been reading fairy tales since I was a child. I love their sense of wonder and magic, as well as the cautionary lessons they teach. With all of that so deeply ingrained in my psyche, I’m never surprised when it surfaces in my writing.

Science does a great job of explaining the world, even the universe, but there are still niches where science doesn’t have the answers, and magic plays in those crevices! I’ve always appreciated Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Fairy tales are filled with magic. Does that mean that fairies are simply more technologically advanced than we are? That thought certainly gives me lots of ideas to play with!

Mythology and fairy tales often incorporate aspects from the locale in which they originated. For example, selkies appear in folktales from the Northern Isles of Scotland, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland. Is there an area of the world that you particularly enjoy including in your writing, whether from a mythological aspect, a geographical one, or both?

DeAnna Knippling
America. I like trying to find out what America is, mythologically speaking. But I grew up on Grimm’s fairy tales and British children’s stories, so I kind of have to sneak in around the sides of things, mythologically speaking.

Strangely, the closest I think Americans consistently get to a national mythology these days is Stephen King. The Shining is Colorado. “The Children of the Corn” is Iowa and big swaths of the Great Plains states. The Stand is all the places it travels through, including Las Vegas. I haven’t been to Maine, so I’m going to have to assume that King is reasonably accurate as far as the feel of Maine goes. King’s stories often feel like fairy tales to me, boiling down the feel of a place and putting a name to it.

I feel like instead of trying to include mythological elements that are traditionally from the places I write about, I often try to find mythological elements that fit the feel of the places I see. I try to put a name to the things about a place that are true, but not defined. For me, writing stories about the barriers between universes being thin feels perfect for where I grew up in the Great Plains. Look out at the perfectly flat horizon for an hour and try to convince yourself that it’s all solid and real. It’s impossible. Why doesn’t all that flat land feel real? Because there’s another universe out there, just on the other side of the hill, and we’re only pretending there isn’t.

Eric Kent Edstrom
Much of the mythology in my world is inherited from a now-vanished race of people called the elnisians. Imagine them as Tolkien-like elves: elegant, long-lived, and wise. These people are gone now and now humans occupy the world. They’ve moved into elnisian cities and have adopted the elnisian mythology.

What I enjoy about that is the world is steeped in a sense of loss. There are magnificent ruins everywhere that humans have no way of duplicating. So people live with this constant reminder: there was an age of grace and this isn’t it.

Deb Logan
I’m most familiar with the European fairy tales I read as a child, especially those from the British Isles, but I’ve also had a lot of fun exploring Native American legends as well as Asian mythology. Some of those threads of magic and mystery appear in my Prentiss Twins adventures, Thunderbird and Coyote.

I really enjoyed taking my Montana-raised characters to Hong Kong…and introducing them to Monkey King! Blending different strains of folklore always leads to fascinating twists.

Question for DeAnna Knippling:
In “By Winter’s Forbidden Rite,” you’ve incorporated a number of elements from myths and legends—for example, the Queen of the Fairies has horns. You’ve also added a twist—the Queen is a scientist. What did you most enjoy about pulling all of this together, both in this story and in your series A Fairy’s Tale, which this story is a part of?

The fairies in A Fairy’s Tale are from another dimension: aliens, if you will. I started thinking about the way fairies are portrayed in what I’ve read, both traditional sources and more recent ones. If the fae are aliens, what should that mean? Why would they come here? What did they hope to achieve when they first came? Is that the same now?

Fairies either don’t belong on our Earth, or we’ve changed their Earth so much that they can’t stand it here anymore. These days, the fae are aliens, or refugees.

In a lot of recent tales about the fae, there’s a sense that either the fae were cut off from our universe at some point in the past (often at the same point that magic stops working), and are only returning briefly—or else that the barriers between our world and fairy have eroded or disappeared, and now we all have to learn to cope with each other. I particularly love Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, a story about the fae at a modern college, and a human woman who has to win her lover back. The fae are so appealing in that book, and so terrifying, too.

What I wanted to find in A Fairy’s Tale was a place where the traditional elements of the fairies (which have become somewhat infantilized by our treatment of traditional fairy tales, as only stories for children) could be re-seen as terrible and wonderful and strange again. For me—your mileage may vary—that place was finding the “alien” elements of the fae. The horns are traditional–but they’re part of a physical distortion that was at least somewhat based on the Xenomorphs from Alien. The changelings are traditional—but which side will they grow up on? Will they be controlled by the fae, or will they still think of themselves as human? Will they have to make compromises?

And, as you pointed out, of course the Queen is a scientist. The fae traditionally have the use of cantrips, glamors, and other magic. And, if as Arthur C. Clarke says, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” then clearly the Queen is going to be mistress of that science.

I feel like, in pulling this series together, that I was pulling together my thoughts on what it meant to have a normal life broken by something beyond that person’s control. There are elements of intrusion (which often we could have handled better, more respectfully, more mercifully), and elements in which things were never the way they seemed, and that we pretended were fine all along. Humanity could have worked with the fae, but didn’t, and instead chose to see them as intruders, to be tricked, used, manipulated, and killed. And yet, on the other hand, when the fae go underground and hide their changelings among humanity, humanity is disgusted, outraged, and terrified. What did we expect? That our lives would never be anything other than ordinary? That we could erase everything that didn’t fit our vision, and suffer no consequences?

A lot of this is subconscious stuff that came out while I was writing, or that I’ve only realized later. “Huh, that was smart,” I’ll think. “Too bad I had no idea why I was doing it at the time.”

Question for Eric Kent Edstrom:
“Winternight” is set in your Starside world, about two years before the Starside Saga begins. What key parts of this story are based on mythology, and what’s your favorite of the magical elements you’ve created of your own?

Because Starside Saga happens in a secondary world, I wanted to invent my own legends, fairy-type-beings, and myths. It’s usual in epic fantasy for there to be a whole new pantheon of gods, demi-gods, and spirit creatures. So this was a fun chance for me to invent my own mythology.

The central arc of the series is about Kila Sigh, a human thief with a bit of godsblood in her veins. Unfortunately for her—and for her world—hers is the blood of the god of death, pestilence, greed, and suffering. Must she succumb to that influence? Or does she have enough will to bend her power into the service good? So yeah, the whole thing is based on mythology.

But it’s true even for smaller aspects of the world. For example, the fey in the series are called “vergents” and they sort of phase in and out of reality in pursuit of their own unknowable aims. Most don’t believe they exist at all. (hint: They do exist, sort of. Reality is bendy where vergents are concerned.)

One of my favorite magical elements in the world is the idea of the “vergent pass.” These archway portals allow people to travel great distances in a few steps. Unfortunately, they’ll only take you in one direction. That can make for a long walk home if you step through the wrong one.

Question for Deb Logan:
In “Faery Unpredictable,” Claire’s boyfriend, the Prince of Winter, is accused of stealing the Wyrd Stone. If the stone isn’t returned by midnight of the Festival of Alban Arthan, Winter will be eternal, and there will never be another Summer. This story incorporates a number of mythological elements. Which were your favorite to include, and how does this story tie in with your Faery Chronicles series?

In the first book in the series (Faery Unexpected), Claire discovers that she’s not a normal teenage girl … she’s the long lost Princess of Faery. So in Faery Unpredictable, we have a teenage girl who is the princess of the realm, but doesn’t really know much about her faery heritage. That’s one of the things I enjoyed about writing this story… laire was learning the mythology right along with the reader.

I also had a lot of fun playing with the intersection of mythology and science for this tale. The inhabitants of Faery believe that the Wyrd Stone controls the seasons. Specifically, the length of days. Claire, having been raised in 21st century America, believes that the earth’s orbit around the sun controls the seasons. Roddy’s explanation of the relationship between the Wyrd Stone and the orbit was great fun to imagine.

I’m very fond of the Faery Chronicles world. My very first published short story, “Deirdre’s Dragon,” was a children’s story about a little girl who inherited a dragon from her grandmother. It was only about 800 words, but the idea stuck with me and I knew there was a lot more story to tell. Eventually, Faery Unexpected was born.

Find the authors!

DeAnna Knippling

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Eric Kent Edstrom

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Deb Logan

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Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

This bundle is available for a limited time at StoryBundle.com/Fantasy.

Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of the purchase price to the charities Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now!

   
 

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Spotlight: “Tales of Arilland” by Alethea Kontis

Step into the enchanting, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous world of fairy tales in Alethea Kontis’ Tales of Arilland. Alethea received a volume of unexpurgated fairy tales for her eight birthday, and the impact of reading those stories of magic, monsters, darkness, blood, and hope is clear in the nine tales in this wonderful collection.

Discover the story of Bluebeard’s first wife (“Blood From Stone”), what really happened to Snow White in those dark woods (“The Unicorn Hunter”), how dangerous the Little Mermaid might have been (“Blood and Water”), and just how far Little Red Riding Hood was willing to go (“Hero Worship”). Included in this collection is “Sunday,” the original novelette that inspired the award-winning novel Enchanted, as well as “The Cursed Prince,” the previously untold history of Prince Rumbold of Arilland…and more.

Tales of Arilland is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Excerpt

The king liked to surround himself with fairies and fey-bloods. It was common knowledge that proximity to someone with fairy blood elongated one’s lifespan, and while no one could remember exactly how old their handsome king was, they knew he had been around long enough to outlive one queen and marry another while still in his prime. Rumbold recalled the prevalence of dark-hair among the dignitaries at court, darker than his mother’s long chestnut curls, but none of them with tresses as black as Velius…

“Am I fey?”

Soft fingers paused in their meandering trail across his furrowed brow and slid down his cheek. “My never-constant son. What makes you ask such a thing?”

“The boys at the training ground today said that Velius was fey.”

“Velius. The duke’s son.”

Rumbold nodded. Velius was a duke’s son, but nobody ever called him that.

“Well, they’re right in any case,” she answered. “It’s too late an hour for me to go into, but yes. Your cousin has more wild fairy blood in him than anyone I’ve ever met.” She looked away, and the lamplight turned her blue eyes golden. “Almost anyone,” she added as an afterthought. “What does any of that have to do with you?”

“The other children say that I’m fey too, because I have dark hair.”

Contagious as his mother’s laugh usually was, it didn’t make Rumbold feel instantly better. The enthusiastic kiss she placed on his forehead did. The pillow haloed her dark brown curls around her as she settled back down and took a deep breath. Rumbold knew that breath meant a story, so he closed his eyes and snuggled into her warm body again.

“Faerie is a land so large its size mirrors the human world—perhaps even surpasses it; no one knows for sure. Deep in the heart of Faerie lives the Fairy Queen. She is its only Queen, and has reigned over the land since the beginning of time. Her hair is as black as night, her skin as white as pearl, and her eyes are deep violet, as deep and rich as dragon’s blood.

“She has no children because she cannot; in order to give life to another being of her own flesh, she would have to sacrifice so much of herself and her power that there would be nothing left. But it is said that those humans with the most fey blood in their hearts look very much like the Fairy Queen.”

— from “The Cursed Prince” in Tales of Arilland by Alethea Kontis

About Alethea

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a voice actress, and a force of nature. 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. She is the host of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” and Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con. Alethea has narrated for ACX, IGMS, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders, Shimmer, Apex Magazine and Clarkesworld Magazine, and she contributes regular YA book reviews to NPR.

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. Alethea was nominated for the Dragon Award again in 2018, for her YA paranormal rom-com When Tinker Met Bell. In 2019, the third in her Harmswood Academy trilogy–Besphinxed–was nominated for a Scribe Award by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

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

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Spotlight: “Primary Fault” by Sharon Kae Reamer

Primary Fault, the first book in Sharon’s Schattenreich series, is set in Cologne, Germany. Sharon, a retired archeoseismologist who actually lives in Cologne herself, creates a unique, engaging, magical world which combines mythology, seismology, history, and romance.

After leaving small-town Texas for Cologne, Germany, Caitlin’s seismologist brother Gus vanishes, and is wanted by the Cologne police. Caitlin’s search for her brother—and his doppelgänger—earns her a bump on the head and a trip to the hospital.

With the help of the sexy aristocrat she’s fallen for, Caitlin locates a vital witness: her brother’s former lover. When Caitlin arrives late to the rendezvous at Cologne’s Gothic cathedral, an earthquake flings her into a bleak Otherworld. There she finds the woman she arranged to meet—and a tall, gaunt wraith she has no desire to see.

Primary Fault is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Excerpt

The creepy but shapely blonde from the airport stood in front of me facing away across a long room. She looked into the distance as if searching. Her voice sounded distracted. “Reality is not always what we imagine, is it, Caitlin Schwarzbach?”

As I walked towards her, she faded away. A wrenching physical displacement followed a vibration from below, and I closed my eyes against a sudden dizziness. When I opened them, the room had changed to a meadow clearing enclosed on all sides by trees that formed a leafy canopy, open in the center. Moonlight cast the clearing in pale relief edged with shadow.

Something large flew over the trees. It’s big enough to eat you. Run away. I cringed and fought the urge to run for the trees as the huge black shadow flew in front the moon, blotting it out.

After it had gone, I noticed the woman. She stood a few feet away and had positioned herself between two men, her arms crossed and her legs spread in a fighting stance. The jeweled hilt of a sword strapped to her back jutted above her shoulders. Long, coal black hair framed a fierce expression and matching posture. She stared at me with bold dark eyes full of arrogance, but her slanted smile suggested amusement. I crossed my arms back at her.

Three fat crows with metallic black beaks and shimmering feathers picked at the grass at her feet. At the far end of the clearing, a half-dozen long-necked birds burst out of the trees and ran toward us. Ducks? The black-winged creature swooped down like a fast-moving cloud of death and gripped a duck in its distinctly reptilian beak before flying away.

The remaining ducks quacked and ran in agitated circles at the loss of their companion. The excited noises faded to the sounds of the two men gabbling at each other, augmented by angry gestures. Shadows hid their faces. They were tall, taller even than Gus, but about equal to each other in height. I caught a flash of blue eyes as they looked around and appeared to notice me for the first time.

A jolt within me accompanied a rumble of ground that threw me to my knees. When I looked up again, the clearing was deserted. Overcome with exhaustion and relieved to be alone again, I curled up on the grass to sleep.

— from Primary Fault by Sharon Kae Reamer

About Sharon

Now a full-time writer living near Cologne, Sharon Kae Reamer’s speculative fiction is inspired by her participation in various archeoseismology projects during her twenty-something years as a senior scientist at the University of Cologne. Locations that include the Praetorium and medieval Jewish settlement in Cologne, ancient Tiryns in Greece, and Greek ruins in Selinunte, Sicily, provide perfect backdrops for creating fantasy stories rich with history and mythology, such as her Immortal Guardian and Schattenreich Mystery novelette series and her five-book Schattenreich novel series.

Her love for mixing and mashing science fiction and fantasy continues unabated. Night Shepherd, in the Schattenreich universe is a spinoff (one of many) of her soon-to-be-published first novel in The Sundered Veil series, a further conception of science fantasy.

Sharon still pursues archeoseismology projects. She also cooks daily (German-English), gardens (chaotically, at best), knits (badly), does needlepoint (rather well) and reads (everything) all the damn time.

And, of course, she has cats.

Find Sharon

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Interview: Kristine Kathryn Rusch on Books 1-3 of The Fey

The Sacrifice, The Changeling, and The Rival are the first three books in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s series The Fey.

The Fey, a beautiful, complex people, have conquered have of the world, and are determined to control it all. Kris weaves elements from mythology together into a world rich with battle, intrigue, mystery, and love.

All three books are available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Excerpt

They were almost to the window. For a moment, he had forgotten his mother. He remembered her now. He wanted her to float with him. He rolled over, making the little people curse. The net swung precariously. He cried out, a long plaintive wail.

“Shush!” the little man nearest him said.

The shadow lifted off the nurse’s face. She snorted, sighed, and sank deeper in sleep. The shadow crawled over the fireplace toward the window.

He cried out again. The nurse stirred and ran a hand over her face. His feet were outside. It was raining, but the drops didn’t touch him. They veered away from his feet as if he wore a protective cover. 

The nurse’s eyes flickered open. “What a dream I had, baby,” she said. “What a dream.”
He howled. The little people hurried him outside even faster. She went to the crib and looked down. His gaze followed hers. In his bed, another baby lay. His eyes were open, but empty. The nurse brushed her hand on his cheek.

“You’re cold, lambkins,” she said.

The little woman huddled in the curtain around the crib. She moved her fingers and the baby cooed. The nurse smiled.

He was staring at the baby that had replaced him. It looked like him, but it was not him. It had been a stone a moment before.

“Changeling,” he thought, marking not just his first word, but the arrival of his conscious being, born a full adult, thanks to the Fey’s magick touch.

He screamed. The little people pulled him outside, over the courtyard and into the street. The nurse looked up, and went to the window, a frown marring her soft features. He cried again, but he was already as high as the clouds, and well down the street. The nurse shook her head, grabbed the tapestry, and pulled it closed.

“Hush, child,” the little man floating above him said. “You’re going home.”

—from The Changeling: The Second Book of The Fey by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The Interview

What inspired you to create the world of The Fey?

My editor at the time told me he wanted a trilogy from me. It was time, he said. We’ll promote it a lot, he said. So I came up with this, and by the time I had written the proposal, he had left the company (unwillingly. This was the 90s. They chased him out because he was gay). So my agent at the time took the trilogy wide, sold it to Bantam Books, and that editor was very enthusiastic. She was let go the day the book landed on her desk. (Something she still apologizes for.) So I got a new editor, who was enthusiastic…

Well, you know the drill. It continued. The behind-the-scenes traditional publishing saga is almost as long as the books.

The Fey incorporates a number of elements from mythology and folklore. What have you enjoyed about pulling these components into the world you’ve built?

I read a lot and my subconscious takes things from what I know like a little magpie.

You studied history in college. Has that influenced The Fey, and if so, how?

I am fascinated by the intersection of history, politics, and belief. I also find war appalling, and yet it is something humans continually do. So I studied history to understand all of this, and continue to read for that reason. And so yes, the history helped a lot. It helped with world-building, it helped with the development of the cultures, and the interplay of history, religion and myth.

Some of your books are light-hearted, like the sweet romances you write under the pen name Kristine Grayson. Others, like The Fey and a number of your mysteries, are darker and more serious. Are there common threads or themes that pop up in your work, regardless of the genre, pen name, or mood?

A dear friend of mine tells me I write about people who are uncomfortable in their own skin. That’s probably true. I don’t look at the unifying elements. I write what I write. I don’t analyze.

You write in multiple series and worlds: The Fey, The Retrieval Artist, The Fates Universe (as Kristine Grayson), and more. How do you keep track of all the details?

Notes. Many notes. And a glossary of names. Those help.

There are currently seven books in The Fey. Do you plan to write more? If so, can you give us a hint about what might be coming?

Yes. I will write more. I keep trying to clear the deck, and I’m getting closer. I need to deal with that Third Place of Power. I know where it is, I know what to do, I just need to find the time.

You publish a free short story on your website every Monday. Why did you decide to do this?

A hundred thousand years ago, when I got my website (which was in the 1990s!), I tried a bunch of ways to make it work. I finally decided to run it like a magazine with a free story on Monday and an article on Thursday, and other stuff on other days of the week. The free story stuck, as did that “article” which became my business blog. The rest fell by the wayside. People really seem to love that free short story—and they buy a copy if they like it enough to keep it.

Tell us about your cats!

At the moment, I have 2: Gavin who is an 18.8 pound baby, and Cheeps, who is a feral indoor kitty. Cheeps was raised in a hoarding situation and we’ve spent the last few years trying to tame him. It’s starting to work. He’s asking for our attention. He’s very afraid of black shoes, though, so if we wear any, he won’t come near us. That makes me sad, because that means someone who wore black shoes kicked him a lot.

Gavin is a big love and a jealous kitty. And when he sits on you, you know it.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I just finished a Kristine Grayson novel for Christmas. It’s in the Santa Series, and is called Tidings of Comfort and Joy. I’ve got a few other things in the works, but I’m not ready to discuss them yet!

About Kris

New York Times bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in almost every genre. Generally, she uses her real name (Rusch) for most of her writing. Under that name, she publishes bestselling science fiction and fantasy, award-winning mysteries, acclaimed mainstream fiction, controversial nonfiction, and the occasional romance. Her novels have made bestseller lists around the world and her short fiction has appeared in eighteen best of the year collections. She has won more than twenty-five awards for her fiction, including the Hugo, Le Prix Imaginales, the Asimov’s Readers Choice award, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Readers Choice Award. 

Publications from The Chicago Tribune to Booklist have included her Kris Nelscott mystery novels in their top-ten-best mystery novels of the year. The Nelscott books have received nominations for almost every award in the mystery field, including the best novel Edgar Award, and the Shamus Award. 

She writes goofy romance novels as award-winner Kristine Grayson.  

She also edits. Beginning with work at the innovative publishing company, Pulphouse, followed by her award-winning tenure at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she took fifteen years off before returning to editing with the original anthology series Fiction River, published by WMG Publishing. She acts as series editor with her husband, writer Dean Wesley Smith.

Find Kris

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The Tales of Aylfenhame: a Love Letter to the Small Stories

Writing a new tale of Aylfenhame always begins with the good stuff: reading. There’s research to be done: some into the history of my setting of choice (the county of Lincolnshire, in the heart of England); and some into the old stories that abound there. Folklore and folktale, little yarns about little people. The small stories.

We’ve all heard the beloved tales of Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. But who remembers Tatterfoal, a hobgoblin in horse’s shape, who terrifies travellers on the old country roads? We know about the will-o-wisp, but what about its cousins in different clothes—like the Lincolnshire will-o-the-wyke? There’s the chilling tale of Yallery Brown, a stone-hearted trickster, who ruthlessly punishes the farm-boys kind enough to help him. Or Tom Tit Tot, an English version of Rumpelstiltskin. Some of these make it into the books; some don’t. All of them are inspiring.

While the Aylfenhame series is deeply rooted in English folklore, and particularly that of Lincolnshire, sometimes I like to step beyond English shores. Mr. Balligumph, the amiable troll guarding the Tilby toll-bridge, is a borrowing from Scandinavian folklore, though far friendlier than his antecedents. And giants, of course, appear in folkloric traditions all over the globe (though as far as I know, tree-giants, like Sir Guntifer, are my own creation).

In Mr. Drake and My Lady Silver, I venture into another ancient British folktale: that of the Hollow Hills, those mythical, hidden realms, frequently deep under the earth, where the creatures of faerie live. Full of wonder and danger in equal measure, the Hollows are places of glamour and beauty, trickery and bedazzlement. Venture Below, and you won’t return unchanged. Indeed, you may never return at all…

It’s also a book in which riddles play a prominent part. Riddles, in verse and sometimes in rhyme, often appear in the old stories, and some wonderful, ancient nonsense songs have survived into the modern era. Tales of the unlikely lad or lass, adrift in a strange world, who outwits a faerie, and escapes a terrible fate; these are popular all over Britain — perhaps, all over the world. My take on this theme is Phineas Drake, the baker’s boy. He may be far out of his depth with the fae of Aylfenhame, with only his wits to help him; but in a world of riddles and tricks and glamours, a lively wit might just be enough.

I recommend a delve into the small stories, wherever you happen to be. There’ll be plenty. Listen to the old nursery tales, the odd little songs, the rhymes and the ghost stories. Some will seem familiar; some unfathomably strange. All will have something to say about the people of yesteryear, and the fears and hopes of those who lived long ago.

But however different our modern world may seem from those long-lost times, these stories resonate just as much with the folk of today. We’re just as intrigued by the allure of adventure. We’re still faced with dangers, and struggles, and obstacles to overcome. And when times get tough, we’d all like to believe the same thing: that if we can hang onto our wits and our courage and the people we love, then everything will be all right in the end.

Maybe.

About Charlotte

English both by name and nationality, Charlotte hasn’t permitted emigration to the Netherlands to change her essential Britishness (much). She writes colourful fantasy novels over copious quantities of tea, and rarely misses an opportunity to apologise for something. A lifelong history buff and Jane Austen fan, the Tales of Aylfenhame series combines her love of Regency history with her deep appreciation for fantasy, whimsy and magic—and all things fae.

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Mr. Drake and My Lady Silver is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle. Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of the purchase price to the charities Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

   
 

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Spotlight: “One Dark Summer Night” by DeAnna Knippling

Things often take an unexpected turn in DeAnna Knippling’s stories, and One Dark Summer Night is no exception. In this book she’s created a dark, intriguing world with fairies who are more complex than they first appear.

Della Rae is only in this podunk Midwestern university town for the full-ride biology scholarship she’s getting. In a year or two, she’s going to Oxford as an exchange student, she knows it. Her eventual goal: to cure cancer. 

Only life doesn’t go like that. The way you planned.

 Something’s going on in the basement of the science building, something that’s tied up every single professor and sends the summer work-study students running. Rumors are going around that the professors are performing a vivisection. And nobody wants to see that.

 But it’s probably not going to be performed on the lab rats. Because this town has always had something weird going on.

 Something that involves Della Rae’s best friend, Merc, and a few other kids in town, all who have the same face…

One Dark Summer Night is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Excerpt

Back in the days when Ireland was the home of the fairies, well, one of their homes, they hid their bridges between our world and theirs in secret places out in the middle of nowhere. That’s how it is here—this is about as close to the middle of nowhere that you’re going to get in modern America, right? Right. Kinda right. I mean, there are other places. Arizona. You know. But you see what I mean. Too far out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s too obvious to the locals when you cross over.

But a college town? Who even pays attention?

I guess you could call them aliens, kind of. They come from another dimension. I’m not sure how the science works, it’s just too far from anything that I understand. Maybe there’s a scientific way to describe it, but I don’t know what it is. Mom might know—but I am not going to ask her. She gets touchy about things like that. It doesn’t matter. It works, another dimension, blah blah blah, and then you get fairies.

Most of the time they look like us. But it’s a trick. A glamour? If they traveled to another world where the natives looked different (of course they would, wouldn’t they?), then they would put on their glamour to look just like these other natives. They try hard to fit in.

Why are they here?

That’s a good question. I think they just like to get up and shake it. But I don’t know.

— from One Dark Summer Night by DeAnna Knippling

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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Spotlight: “Entangled by Midsummer” by Jamie Ferguson

Mark, a selkie, is trapped on land after his sealskin is stolen by his human lover in Entangled by Midsummer. He turns to a faery woman named Merenna for help. But Merenna has her own problems—she left Faerie to escape a dangerous man whose ambitions would make her his bride and his pawn, and his liegemen have found her. The net of intrigue closes in around Mark and Merenna as Midsummer approaches—a time when vast forces align, sinister plans come to fruition, and destiny itself can be rewritten.

Entangled by Midsummer is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Excerpt

Laran stared at her for a minute, and then bowed his head and walked off toward the wine barrels, the solidity of the steps of his booted feet at odds with his presumed lack of sobriety. Merenna clasped her necklace so tightly her fingers ached, and held her breath as Laran eased through the drunken crowd with the grace of a dancer.

As soon as he was out of sight, she hurried away from the bonfire, Cù close by her side. They ran down the grass-covered hill, leapt across a tiny brook, and entered the dark of the forest. The air smelled of leaves, damp earth, and smoke from the festival fires. The branches and leaves of the tall trees formed a canopy that blocked out most of the light from the stars.

Merenna moved as quickly as she dared. She could feel the energy from the nearby track, but couldn’t see it. She glanced down at Cù. His bits of white fur seemed to almost glow in the darkness. It felt like Laran was right behind her, as if his breath were on the back of her neck. Cù’s footsteps were silent, but she kept stepping on tiny twigs on the forest floor, her feet making crunching sounds as she made her way between the trees. If Laran was following them, he would surely hear her! Where was the track?

And then there it was.

The silvery line curved out of the sky and down to the earth in front of her, like a path made of stardust. She’d been on straight tracks before, but never for very far, and never alone. The light emanating from the track was much brighter than she recalled. The glow before had been faint, like glimpsing the flame of a candle through a thick curtain. The light tonight was almost bright enough to read by.

There was a rustle in the woods behind her. Merenna whipped around, but could see nothing in the dim light. Was it Laran? Had he found her?

She turned back toward the track and set her shoulders. She didn’t know exactly where it would take her, and she didn’t care. Anywhere it led would be somewhere Laran was not. And there was no way he would be able to find her.

Merenna and Cù leapt on the track together and began to run.

— from Entangled by Midsummer by Jamie Ferguson

About Jamie

Jamie focuses on getting into the minds and hearts of her characters, whether she’s writing about a saloon girl in the American West, a man who discovers the barista he’s in love with is a naiad, or a ghost who haunts the house she was killed in—even though that house no longer exists. Jamie has edited over a dozen anthologies, co-edits the anthology series Amazing Monster Tales with DeAnna Knippling, and is a member of The Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy author collective. She lives in Colorado, and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies, since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep. Yet.

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Interview: Anthea Sharp on “Faerie Song: Ten Magical Tales”

Anthea Sharp’s short story collection Faerie Song: Ten Magical Tales is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Faerie Song: Ten Magical Tales

Enter the magical Realm of Faerie in these ten enchanting tales, including the award-winning “The Sea King’s Daughter,” plus a brand new tale featuring music, magic, and the dangers of misusing the powers of the fae!

Excerpt

A few steps beyond where the knight guarded the gate, the passageway opened into a misty cave. Archways and columns rose on either side, but Puck continued to lead her forward, finally stopping in front of a massive set of double doors. They rose into the mist, and seemed fashioned of pure gold, carved into sinuous designs: foliage, flowers, the figures of capering fey folk.

Slowly, without either herself or Puck touching them, the doors began to open. Radiance spilled from the widening crack, and Maeve squinted and turned her face away. Would she be entering the heart of a flame? For her nephew’s sake, she would do it, though her heart beat fast and frightened at the thought.

The doors spread open, like shining wings, the too-bright light faded, and Maeve felt her eyes widen at the sights beyond.

“Behold,” Puck said. “The Bright Court.”

He stepped over the threshold and beckoned her to follow. Fear and wonder warring within her, she did.

The Bright Court was, indeed bright as day. Tall trees shone gold and silver in the light, their branches glimmering with emerald leaves and brightly jeweled flowers. Underfoot, lush moss cushioned her footsteps, and the faintest brush of music caught at her ears.

Puck led her through the enchanted forest, the light growing brighter still. Something glowed high overhead. Maeve shaded her eyes with her hand and peered upward. It was not the sun, not here beneath the knowe. Instead, an enormous, luminous pearl hung, suspended on a silver chain. Its white radiance was touched with scarlet, as though ruby coals smoldered in the heart of that brightness. Such a light was never seen in the world above, nor would ever be.

“Yonder lies the true court of the Bright King,” Puck said. “Take care, mortal maid.”

—from “Beneath the Knowe” in Faerie Song: Ten Magical Tales by Anthea Sharp

The Interview

Your brand-new short story “Faerie Song” is a retelling of Pied Piper, with a faerie twist. What led you to choose this particular legend as the basis for your story?

I actually had the cover for Faerie Song, without a story for it (yes, those premade cover groups on FaceBook can be trouble!), so the tale really was inspired by that image of a girl playing a violin. I knew I wanted to tie the story into the Realm of Faerie, and as soon as I started thinking about music-related fairy tales, The Pied Piper sprang to mind. (There’s also The Bremen Town musicians, but I felt more inclined toward the spookier feel of The Pied Piper.) As soon as I started diving into the research, I was hooked, too. Did you know that the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin is based on an actual event? There are several different explanations of what might have happened, but I am of the firm belief that it was a musical enchantment, no matter what the historians might say.

Faerie Song is a collection of ten of your short stories—including the new story which inspired the collection’s title. How did you decide which stories to include?

Everything in the collection is deeply grounded in faerie lore and tales—I can’t seem to stray far from my roots as an avid young reader of the Colored Fairy Books collection by Andrew Lang. I picked the most magic-filled and fey of my short stories for inclusion in this special StoryBundle exclusive.

In “Music’s Price,” a young boy who lives in New York calls faeries to him when he plays the cello…but there are dangers associated with his gift. What elements of folklore and mythology did you use in creating this story?

There are many tales and snippets of song (like Thomas the Rhymer) about of gifted musicians being able to access that dusk-lit place where the Realm of Faerie lies. I wanted to bring a modern sensibility to the Bardic lore, as well as explore the ever present dangers of bargaining with the fae.

A computer game is the gateway to Faerie in your USA Today bestselling Feyland series, which was inspired in part by an ancient Scottish ballad in which Tam Lin’s true love rescues him from the Queen of the Faeries. Have you incorporated ideas from other ballads in your work?

As you can probably guess by now, the answer is a resounding yes! The Dark Realm is my modern retelling of Tam Lin (with bits of Thomas the Rhymer), and in the second book, The Bright Court, I weave in pieces of Childe Roland. Plus, many of the quests in Feyland are drawn directly from fairy tales: carrying water in a sieve, sorting lentils from beans, and the like.

Your short story “The Faerie Girl” incorporates the traditional Gaelic lullaby Seoithin, seo ho, and other songs appear throughout your work. What do you enjoy about weaving music into your fiction?

I play the fiddle and sing, and I’ve always felt there’s a strong connection between music, magic, and fairy tales. That cross-weaving is everywhere, if you care to look for it, and I love the inspiration to be found in those old ballads and songs. Music is magic, in my opinion, and so are words, so it all intersects in my stories.

“Into the Faerie Hill” is about the night the harper Turlough O’Carolan spends under a faerie hill, which ends with him getting the gift of music. Your fictional harper is based on the real O’Carolan, a blind Celtic harper, composer, and singer who was born in Ireland in 1670. You play—and sing!—Celtic music yourself. Does this include some of O’Carolan’s compositions?

Absolutely! O’Carolan’s tunes are wonderful, and one of my favorite, Si Bheag, Si Mhor, is supposedly the first tune he ever wrote, based on a dream he had when sleeping beneath the faerie hill. So of course I had to turn that into a tale. Hm, these questions are making me think I need to make a Youtube Channel of me playing and singing some of this music…

Star Compass, your soon-to-be-released new novel, is the first book in the world of Victoria Eternal, which mixes steampunk, space opera, and Victorian sensibilities. Can you give us a peek at what’s coming in this series?

I describe it as Oliver Twist meets Firefly – a future set alt-history where the British Empire stretches across the galaxy, ruled by sequential cloned Queen Victorias. This allows me to indulge my love of the manners and mores of the Victorian era with the thrill of space travel and adventure. Star Compass follows a mathematically gifted orphan as she rises from the slums to the stars. And, as with most of my books, there’s a touch of romance along the way. (Sidenote: I also write Victorian-set historical romances under the twice-RITA-nominated pen name Anthea Lawson.)

“The Clockwork Harp,” one of the stories in Faerie Song, is also set in the world of Victoria Eternal! This story is a steampunk retelling of the Cruel Sister ballad. There are a number of variants of this ballad—did you base your story on one variant in particular?

My parents had a Pentangle album with The Cruel Sister on it, which is the one I imprinted on. It’s another creepy tale of music and magic, where the dead sister is turned into a harp and then reveals the fact that she was murdered by her sister. As we know, all is not sweetness and light when it comes to faerie tales!

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on Raine, book three of my Elfhame series (similar to fairyland except populated with Dark Elves.) These books are pure fantasy without any modern-world elements, and feature prophecies, Dark Elf royalty, magical gateways (somehow I can’t seem to escape writing portal fantasies), and a strong romantic core. The Dark Elves are based less on the fae and more on Tolkienesque archetypes, which means I can make my hero a bit more noble than a tricksy and amoral faerie prince would be. But whether I’m writing faeries and computer games, Dark Elves with epic problems, or Victorian pickpockets yearning for space, I’m having tons of fun mixing up genres and creating new worlds for my readers to enjoy!

About Anthea

Growing up on fairy tales and computer games, Anthea Sharp has melded the two in her award-winning, bestselling Feyland series, which has sold over 150k copies worldwide. In addition to the fae fantasy/cyberpunk mashup of Feyland, she also writes Victorian Spacepunk, and fantasy romance. Her books have won awards and topped bestseller lists, and garnered over a million reads at Wattpad. Her short fiction has appeared in Fiction River, DAW anthologies, The Future Chronicles, and Beyond The Stars: At Galaxy’s Edge, as well as many other publications.

Anthea lives in sunny Southern California, where she writes, hangs out in virtual worlds, plays Celtic fiddle, and spends time with her small-but-good family.

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Interview: Jenna Elizabeth Johnson on “Faeborne”

Jenna Elizabeth Johnson’s Faeborne takes us to a land where the Morrigan, the goddess of war and strife, aspires to become more powerful through the use of violence and sacrifice. This is a wonderful tale of how even in dark and complicated circumstances, one can find love, trust, and happiness.

Faeborne is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…

Excerpt

Since she was a young girl, she had been able to fix many of the things the world had broken.  The gift had developed in stages, slowly.  First, she had started with plants.  Seren’s tribe happened to live along the edge of one of the many meadows dotting the Weald, and several of the families kept small gardens just outside their dens.  One day, Seren had woken before her mother, on the very brink of dawn, before the sun crested the earth, to find their tiny seedlings trampled.  Seren knew, even at that young age, that someone in their tribe had sabotaged their garden on purpose.  She had stepped out into the deep, loamy earth, her bare feet tingling with Eile’s magic, and knelt in the midst of the destruction.  Hot tears of sorrow fell from her eyes and trailed down her cheeks.  She had knelt in the soil, splaying her hands over the most damaged of the lot.  Then, the pain and hurt in her heart stopped burning, and instead, spread throughout her body like warm sunshine piercing a bank of rainclouds.  Her fingers began to glow a golden green, and the light swirled around the stems of earth, to find their tiny seedlings trampled.  Seren knew, even at that young age, that someone in their tribe had sabotaged their garden on purpose.  She had stepped out into the deep, loamy earth, her bare feet tingling with Eile’s magic, and knelt in the midst of the destruction.  Hot tears of sorrow fell from her eyes and trailed down her cheeks.  She had knelt in the soil, splaying her hands over the most damaged of the lot.  Then, the pain and hurt in her heart stopped burning, and instead, spread throughout her body like warm sunshine piercing a bank of rainclouds.  Her fingers began to glow a golden green, and the light swirled around the stems of the tiny plants, weaving the broken leaves and shoots back together.

Gasping in surprise, Seren had stood up, trembling not from the cold of the early morning, but from the exhilaration and shock of what had just happened.  When her fingers stopped tingling, she bent down and tried to repeat the action with another row of plants, this time reining in her fear.  For once in her life, she felt a boldness welling up inside of her.  No longer was she the smallest and the weakest of her tribe.  No, in this she was strong.  Not because she thought so, but because she felt it.  Sweet pride, tinged with a bone-deep certainty, flowed free with this new and strange magic.

—from Faeborne by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson

The Interview

Faeborne is a standalone novel in your Otherworld series. What keeps pulling you back to write more in this intriguing world you’ve created?

When I started writing in the Otherworld universe, I didn’t have a complete grasp on the world itself quite yet. By the third book in the series, my characters are living in the Otherworld, but I still had only scratched the surface. With each foray into Eile (the formal name for the Celtic Otherworld in my series) and the characters’ lives, I get new glimpses of this wondrous place and the magical beings and things that exist there. It’s this continual unveiling that keeps me coming back for more.

The Morrigan, a queen associated with war and fate in Irish mythology, appears in Faeborne. What parts of her traditional mythology did you pull into your story?

One of my goals with the Otherworld series was to keep as true to the legend of the established gods and goddesses as I could, but also to portray them in the way I had interpreted them during my studies. For the Morrigan, I wanted to keep her title – the goddess of war and strife – establish that her feast day is Samhain (Sow-when), and include the animal most associated with her, the raven. Her spirit guide (in the Otherworld universe, a spirit guide is an animal that bonds with its familiar and shares their mortality) is a white raven.

In the myths and legends of Ireland, the Morrigan can take on three aspects – mother, maiden, crone—but in the Otherworld series, her main focus is to stir up trouble and gain power through violence and sacrifice. She aims to steal the glamour, or magic, from others in order to become more powerful and wreak more havoc. I always got the impression from my Celtic studies classes that the Morrigan was her own woman, not one to be trifled with, so I took these traits and embellished them a little.

The nice thing about Celtic mythology (at least for those of us who like to take creative license with the old tales) is that it was passed on through oral tradition, and much of what we know has been learned through conjecture. This gives authors reworking the myths and legends more wiggle room and freedom to be more creative. Still, I hope I’ve managed to capture the essence of this great Celtic goddess in the Otherworld books, even if this rendition is heavily painted with my own whimsy.

The main characters in Faeborne have experienced loss and adversity, and have to deal with their burdens of the past as they learn and grow in this book. What do you enjoy about adding this type of darker element to your fiction?

Many of my favorite characters in books I’ve read have been those with troubled pasts, and perhaps this is why I like to write characters like this. Knowing that a character has faced many challenges and much adversity, I think, makes characters more relatable and gives the reader a deeper connection to them. Plus, it just makes them so interesting and so often I find myself taking their side and really feeling empathy for them.

Secondly, more complicated, damaged characters require more healing throughout the story and I love picking up on and working out those little moments where that healing process gradually unfolds through the love and patience of those they have come to rely upon. Damaged characters—and those fighting for them—have to work harder to reach the end goal of becoming better people, and there is just something so very real and endearing about that.

Finally, I think reading about and working with the deeply damaged characters gives all of us a ray of hope. If characters with great flaws and so many issues can find redemption and someone to love—and someone to forgive them—then we, too, can discover the same in our own lives.

In addition to incorporating Celtic mythology into your writing, you’ve also written an entire series set in a world where dragons, elves, and other mythological beings exist. What inspired your Legend of Oescienne series?

The Legend of Oescienne series was born in my sketch book from my college art classes. It started out as character and map sketches, then blossomed into a bigger story idea. In all honesty, though, I’m pretty sure it had been brewing in my head for years before I realized what it was. The geography of the world—at least the area where my main character grows up – is entirely based off my hometown, and Jahrra (my heroine) is a reflection of me (but she’s so much braver than I ever was or probably ever will be). If you’re paying attention, though, you won’t miss the Celtic influences sprinkled throughout this series as well. It’s just in my blood and soul, I guess.

The theme of helping others, even at cost to oneself, appears in a number of your stories and provides a very positive message. What’s important to you about incorporating this message in your work?

More and more in this day and age, it seems kindness is being set aside for greed and the Might Makes Right mentality. Perhaps it’s just the result of a world saturated with social media and the ability to access information in the blink of an eye – that we are more aware of it because we have access to what’s going on in the world on a minute-by-minute basis.

Being kind and showing compassion is a huge theme for me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I attended twelve years of Catholic school. Most people I have ever talked to claim to have a more negative experience with Catholic school education, but for me—at least the first eight years—my own experience was positive. I had the Irish Sisters of Mercy educating me. I never felt judged by them and we were always aware of the Charism of Mercy. We were taught to treat others with respect and kindness and this was reflected in the actions of those around me. This was also stressed in my household as well. I think that aspect of my childhood blended with my deeper connection to nature helped stoke this need to exude kindness and compassion for not just humans, but all living things as well. Now, I’m not saying I never break this rule. I’m only human and make mistakes, but I strive to be the best person I can be and to spread the message of kindness and acceptance because there always seems to be someone or something out there who really needs a bit of kindness to get through the day or week. I would love to be remembered as someone who helped others through a difficult time in their lives or helped them to feel like a part of something even if they don’t fit in with the crowd.

You visited Ireland a few years ago. How has that experience impacted your writing?

To be entirely honest, I’m not sure if it has added anything to my writing. I would say it did a better job of validating what I’ve been trying to do as opposed to adding to it. When I was in Ireland, I was so ready to absorb all the great Otherworldly vibes (and believe me, I did!), but I can’t say whether or not it affected my writing. I like to think I’ll be able to describe the Otherworld more accurately, and I’m hoping some of those hidden corners of Ireland we stumbled upon will inspire a new setting, but it was more of a soul recharging venture for me. You could say my Otherworldly glamour had drained low and after visiting Ireland, that Celtic magic was strong once again.

Tell us about your chickens!

Oh, boy. How much time do you have? Ha ha, just kidding! For those of you who follow me on social media, you also know I’m a chicken mom. I love my chickens and all chickens in general. Some people may call me crazy, but honestly, who wouldn’t want to have a flock of modern-day velociraptors at their beck and call? Most people might think chickens are stupid and flighty, but if you spend any time with them at all, you’ll realize they are all individuals with their own personalities and outlook on life. And they are just so adorable and there is nothing more enjoyable than raising the little fluff balls from day one until adulthood (and nothing more stressful for those of us who take it a little too seriously).

I’m very hands on with my chickens, from day one, probably more so than most people. And this is why they grow up expecting me to be filled with treats when I visit them in the coop, and why they will still sit on my lap even when they are older (like my 6 year old Barred Rock, Alice).

I can’t say exactly why I love chickens so much, but they are such a joy to have around, despite all the stress and worry about how they can get hurt or sick. If it were up to me, my only occupations would be an author and a stay at home chicken mom.

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’ve been shamefully away from the writing world for too long of late. I planned on writing all throughout the summer, but my chickens were still babies and needed all of my attention. Now that fall is in full swing, I’m working on getting regular writing back into my weekly schedule. I’ve had so many small side projects it’s been hard to find time for one of my greatest passions.

Recently, I finished up a short story for a scary story writing contest, so that is a step in the right direction. I’m working on getting Blaze and Borne (the second novella in my Draghans of Firiehn series) available in print format. After that, I need to get to work on the third book in that series, as well as another trilogy that takes place in the Otherworld series. One more priority is another short story project that will be due soon. Alas! So many writing projects, so little time!

Fortunately, the fun thing about what I’ll be working on is I’ll be writing from Cade’s (the hero in the Otherworld trilogy) point of view for the next three books, and there will also be a revelation about the Morrigan that I hope will leave readers (and some of the Otherworld characters) reconsidering everything they thought about her. For the third installment of the Draghans of Firiehn series, I’ll be tying up Dorran’s and Brienne’s story but opening up windows into the follow-up novellas (which will follow Dorran’s five loyal guards). As for the short story, I can’t really say much about it yet since it’s a group effort. I am looking forward to really digging into it, though. Thank goodness NaNoWriMo is coming up! I’ll need that daily word count challenge to keep me in line.

About Jenna

Jenna Elizabeth Johnson is a bestselling, multi-award winning author of epic and contemporary fantasy.  She has published several novels, novellas, and short stories in her Legend of Oescienne, Otherworld, and Draghans of Firiehn series.

Jenna’s writing is heavily influenced by the Celtic mythology she studied while attending college.  When not working on her books, Jenna can be found at home tending to her chickens, camping and hiking in Yosemite, and practicing German longsword.

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