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

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon ~ Patreon ~ BookBub ~ Goodreads

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!

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.

Find Anthea

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

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!

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.

Find Jenna

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Wattpad ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub

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!

Interview: Amber Argyle on “Daughter of Winter”

Amber Argyle’s novel Daughter of Winter is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Amber’s book Of Fire and Ash, which is in the same series as Daughter of Winter, is FREE in Kindle Unlimited through November 23rd! Find it here: https://amzn.to/35vvUvr

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…

Daughter of Winter

Bargains. Only the desperate need them. Only the desperate make them. And always, the desperate pay.

The silence and never-ending dark of winter are all Elice has ever known, for she is the daughter of the Winter Queen. Isolated in a northern queendom, she dreams of color and music and life. So when a whaling ship crashes just offshore, she doesn’t hesitate to rescue the lone survivor, Adar, who quickly becomes her friend. She must keep him hidden from her mother at all costs, for if the Winter Queen discovers him trespassing, she’ll kill him.

When her mother reveals just how dark her soul has become, Elice realizes she is as much a prisoner as Adar. To ever know true freedom—to ever become the woman she was meant to be—she must flee with him. But in their flight, she begins to see hints of something more nefarious. The darkness that has taken hold of her mother is spreading, staining the world with its influence.

Unbeknownst to Elice, a bargain was made long ago. A bargain she was born to fulfill.

Excerpt

Movement in the sky drew Elice’s gaze. A flock of ice fairies shifted in the air currents like a school of fish, their clear-as-glass wings catching the sunlight in a thousand sparks. They hovered between Elice and the ship. Dread seeped into the place where hope had been. She was too late. Too late to meet the ship. Too late to warn its occupants.

Tinted green by the water, a spear of ice shot out, stabbing into the underbelly of the ship. The ship’s scream sounded remarkably close to the cry of the dying seal pup just a few minutes before. The men released a small boat, but the moment it hit the water, it was crushed between two ice floes.

Having completed their dark task, the fairies fluttered away, leaving the craft in her death throes as they headed toward Elice. She knew their destination was the Winter Palace, and she was directly in their path. She ducked down, pressed herself flat, and tried to keep her breathing shallow. The fairies passed over her, their wings making a sound like a hundred scissors opening and closing at once.

Elice wanted to stay put until the fairies were long gone, but there wasn’t time. Whatever they’d done to that ship had doomed it—otherwise they wouldn’t have left it. She eased around the other side of the rise, putting the iceberg between herself and the fairies and hoping her movements hadn’t caught their attention.

A horrible screeching of wood made her whip around. The ship canted to one side before plunging into open water again. It was listing badly and sitting heavy. Water gushed out some sort of pump, but the craft was sinking fast now, water closing around the sailors. They began to scream.

—from Daughter of Winter by Amber Argyle

The Interview

Daughter of Winter (which can be read as a standalone!) is the sixth book in your Fairy Queens series. The battle between Summer and Winter Fae, which is a key premise of this series, has a basis in folklore and mythology. What inspired you to use this as a key part of your series?

I remember being utterly fascinated by Fantasia as a kid, especially the scene where the fairies change the seasons with their magic. It was ethereally beautiful. And yet…they had all this incredible magic, and they never asserted it over anyone.

Or maybe they did and mankind just never knew…

What if they were beautiful and ethereal and delicate, but also dark and terrible? What if they used their beautiful, terrible magic to offer mankind bargains, and the price of that bargain was to become one of them?

This series takes place over time, so the characters age and grow. Was it difficult, fun, or both to see your characters change over time?

It depends on how their stories turn out. Not all of them have perfect happily ever afters. Two characters in particular prick at my author guilt. I put them through a lot, and they did the best they could. But the cost was often high.

The world you created in this series is beautiful, fascinating, and complex. Do you plan to write more stories set in this world?

I actually want to plan several spin off series. In the books, the magic is a sentient being that lives and then is reborn in a new form. So each series would deal with the magic in its new form, with the characters of the first books becoming the legends and gods of the subsequent books.

I always have more ideas that the time to ever write them all, unfortunately.

You weave aspects from fairy tales into your Forbidden Forest series, which begins with a young woman following her younger sister into the forest…a forest that’s inhabited by a dangerous beast! Which fairy tale elements did you find most fun and interesting to incorporate?

I combined Beauty and the Beast with the Pied Piper. So the beast lives in the sentient woods and lures girls into the Forbidden Forest, never to be seen again.

Of course the villagers don’t know where the girls go. They just disappear in the night, and none ever return. Until Larkin does. But now the beast has had his taste, he’ll never let her go…

Curse Queen, the fourth book in your Forbidden Forest series, is coming out soon! Can you give us a sneak peek?

The Silver Tree had no ears with which to hear nor eyes with which to see.

So he borrowed them.

No.

Not borrowed.

Traded.

The tree grew thorns which mankind slipped into their skin. Bits of living, thinking magic that took root and grew, giving men and women access to the tree’s enchantment. In exchange, the tree took the memories of the dead and the companionship of the living.

It had always seemed to the Silver Tree a fair trade. More than fair. For though his mind could not understand the strange thoughts and ways of mankind, for the first time, he experienced color and light; patterns and music; and the glory of purpose and movement.

What he did not intend, was the price of that freedom. For not all men chose the light.

Tonight, one man reveled in the dark, jagged shadows that crouched in the corners of his mind. His darkness began to infect the Silver Tree; to choke out its own inner light. Shadows moved beneath his bark.

Shadows that spread like a dark promise.

Within the Silver Tree’s boughs came the strains of music made magic. Music created by women with enchanted flutes in impossible shapes and varieties. At the wide, flat expanse between where his enormous trunk met the boughs, nearly one hundred and fifty dignitaries of two kingdoms swirled—protected from the bitter cold by the same magic that rode on the melody. The magic he created. The men and women didn’t sense the darkness hidden in the crevices of the magic. Didn’t notice the shadowy, delicate fingers that brushed against them, deciding who among them would die.

Aware and trapped inside his own rigid form of wood and bark, the Silver Tree felt the strains of music like wind through leaves and water winnowing through roots, a language of movement and sight and sound—things at once known and unknowable.

He tried to warn them, these people who had no idea of the darkness. Had he lips, he would have screamed. Could he move, he would have swept them off his body. But as it was, he could only watch through borrowed eyes.

High above, the magical globe encircled his city of enormous trees that grew out of the lake. Outside, a thousand frozen flakes sent gentle ripples dancing from one side to the other until the dome was completely blanketed with snow. That snow melted against the city’s captured warmth, streaks of water running into rivers that fed his massive lake.

Water above, water below. And in the space between, he gleamed in the very center of his lake forest. Sparkling like frost, his inner light reflected across the snow and the mirror-still surface of the lake, so that the night gleamed silver bright.

That beauty was a lie. For the shadowy fingers had stilled on a victim. Someone was about to die.

How do you feel growing up on a cattle ranch has influenced your fiction?

Well, I know how to write horses. Lol

In all the hours I spent outside, I learned how to notice details – the smell of cut hay, the gathering leaps of the horse beneath me, the feel of wind in my hair. I remember moving sprinkler pipe with my dad and brother. The water snakes that would slide out of the pipes. We’d chase them down and play with them. Mom would always have a breakfast of sugary sweet pancakes waiting for us.

Every day was it’s own adventure. And while my body was busy working, my mind was spinning stories about faraway princes and princesses, evil villains, and daring adventures.

The main character in the first book in your Witch Song series is about Senna, a young woman who is persecuted for being who she is: a witch. As she learns more about who she is, and makes hard decisions about who to trust and what is and isn’t worth sacrificing, she learns a number of important lessons that are valuable to your readers as well as to Senna. Was this your intention when you started writing this story, and how do you feel about this?

I wanted kids who felt bullied and powerless to find a kindred spirit in Brusenna. I wanted them to learn right along with her that what makes her different is what makes her beautiful. In the beginning of the book, Brusenna wants nothing more than to blend in, be like others. It’s only as she matures that she realizes the very things that make her different also make her beautiful, strong, and powerful. And she wouldn’t trade any of those qualities just to blend in.

I also wanted kids to learn how to choose whom to trust. If a person encourages you to become something more— someone better without asking for anything in return (except friendship), that person is worthy of your trust. People who genuinely care about you don’t need anything in return. There is no price, no bad consequences for being with them. Because they’re pulling themselves up with one hand and you with the other.

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

I just finished my edits for a spin off story, Curse Queen, for my Forbidden Forest series. As soon as I’m finished with my cowboy romance (which will be out soon!), I’ll start drafting the final book, Wraith King.

The romance is so fun! It’s hard to write humor into fantasy books – humor is so culturally based that it’s nearly impossible to pull off. So it’s been a blast to write humor into my cowboy romances. More than once, I’ve been laughing maniacally at what my characters are doing on screen. While I’m alone. In my house.

The neighbors are all very concerned.

About Amber

Bestselling author Amber Argyle writes fantasies where the main characters save the world (with varying degrees of success) and fall in love (with the enemy). Her award-winning books have been translated into numerous languages and praised by such authors as New York Times bestsellers David Farland and Jennifer A. Nielsen.

Amber grew up on a cattle ranch and spent her formative years in the rodeo circuit and on the basketball court. She graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in English and physical education, a husband, and a two-year-old. Since then, she and her husband have added two more children, which they are actively trying to transform from crazy small people into less-crazy larger people. She’s fluent in all forms of sarcasm, loves hiking and traveling, and believes spiders should be relegated to horror novels where they belong.

Find Amber

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Interview: Alethea Kontis on “Blood & Water”

“Blood & Water” is in Water Faeries, the fourth volume in the anthology series A Procession of Faeries.

Jump into the waves, and enter the world of Faerie!

Meet Alethea!

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

“Blood & Water”

A mermaid falls in love with the man she rescued from the sea. 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?

Excerpt

Once the transformation began, the pain pushed all other thoughts out of her head. Water left her as suddenly as her soul had left her, her gills closing up after it. The pressure that filled her chest made her eyes want to pop out. She clamped her mouth shut, instinct telling her that she could no longer breathe her native water. She beat furiously with her tail, fleeing for the surface.

Halfway there, the other pain began. It started at the ends of her fin and spread upwards, like bathing in an oyster garden. The sharpness bit into her, skinning her, slicing her to her very core. Paralyzed, she let her momentum and the pressure in her chest pull her closer to the sky. Part of her hoped she could trust the magic enough to get her there. Part of her didn’t care. It wanted to die, and knew it could not.

That price had already been paid.

—from “Blood & Water” by Alethea Kontis

The Interview

How did you come up with the idea of combining mermaid and vampire mythology?

Back when I used to drive a lot more, I kept a small notebook in my car to jot down thoughts and inspirations when I was at a stoplight or rest area. While I was visiting my friend Brandi in Charleston, SC, she flipped through the book. She stopped on a page where I had scribbled “Vampire” and “Mermaid.” “What’s a Vampire Mermaid?” she asked me. And the seed was planted!

You minored in marine science, and used some of your knowledge about hydrothermal vents in this story. Has this knowledge come in handy for other stories as well?

Yes, indeed–I majored in Chemistry and minored in Marine Science. I LOVED the hydrothermal vents. Loved them. My dream was to spend my life out in the middle of the ocean on some great research ship, surrounded by stars and smelling like fish and maybe even going down in the Alvin (a deep sea research vessel). Sure, I was writing stories and starring on TV when I was eight, but at school I was 100% math and science girl. Every time I fall down a research rabbit hole, it’s usually science-based. Like binary star systems (for “Savage Planet”), or nanotechnology (“Pocket Full of Posey), or cryotech (“True.love”). For the novel Dearest, I spent an entire day researching nettles. Did you know you can make a nettle tea that changes color when you add a slice of lemon? THAT’S CHEMISTRY, BABY! #NerdAlert

In addition to writing stories, you also narrate audio books. What do you enjoy about narrating other people’s stories?

No matter how old a person is when they start acting, if they ever stop, they always miss it. When I write, I am the narrator, of course. But every time I sit in the studio and read, I become the narrator in a way that I could only ever touch while acting. The motivation, the dialogue, the delivery… Somewhere in the back of my mind it feels like all the monologues I used to memorize for auditions–only I don’t have to memorize these stories! Which leaves me even more energy to give the story my all.

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?

My favorite fairy tale growing up was always “The Goose Girl.” The girl/princess, though passive, is a magic user but not a witch. Her talking horse gets its head chopped off, but never really dies. The princess has a good heart and never changes, despite the horrible things that happen to her. In the end, the evil maid in the story ends up dying a gruesome death that she devises herself. (Unlike Snow White, who murdered her stepmother at her own wedding.) I think I loved “The Goose Girl” because everyone stayed true to who they were, and everything just worked out the way it should in the end.

My new favorite fairy tale is “Old Rinkrank”…but mostly because I got to retell it as “The Glass Mountain,” which might be my favorite story I’ve ever written.

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

It’s interesting to see what contemporary people are “afraid” of, and what they will change in the story to make it more palatable to the masses. Interestingly, this topic has been a concern of fairy tale archivists since the beginning of time–Andrew Lang and J.R.R. Tolkien both wrote about how “modern” retellings took out a lot of the harsh realities of the “original” tellings…and whether or not they should. (Most–including me–agree they should not.)

You’re a storm chaser! Tell us what you love about chasing storms. And will you wear the same fabulous tiara as last year?

Going back to my science background–I have always been in love with the beauty of this world. (Seriously–my first best friend was a tree.) I remember stealing my dad’s Miranda camera with the giant lens and taking pictures of everything from sunsets to tree stumps. In May in Middle America, the skies are BREATHTAKING. And yes…sometimes even dangerous. As many beautiful things in nature can be. Plus, we often run into other chasers while on the road: similar nerds from all over the world with similar loves of photography, who worship the Giant Skies.

I will definitely be breaking out my Ozma tiara again, for sure! Be sure to follow my travels on patreon.com/princessalethea.

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

Right now, I am in love with the middle grade manuscripts I’m working on. I just finished the novelization of “Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome,” and I’m about to start one about a young girl, a bunch of goblins and brownies, and four fairy queens. I’ve also got one in the works that involves storm chasing–of course! The working title is “Oz or Bust.” I’m super excited about all three of these!

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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A Procession of Faeries

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Interview: Jamie Ferguson on “Inside a Fairy Tale”

“Inside a Fairy Tale” 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 Jamie Ferguson!

Jamie writes fantasy, westerns, and whatever else pops into her head. She’s a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy collective, co-edits the pulp monster series Amazing Monster Tales with DeAnna Knippling, and edits several anthology series on her own. Her superpowers are organizing and multi-tasking, both of which help her relate to her two border collies.

“Inside a Fairy Tale”

Valentina overhears a strange conversation between another couple in “Inside a Fairy Tale.” Filled with foreboding, Valentina follows them, and finds herself inside a modern-day fairy tale.

Excerpt

I took a deep breath and resumed walking toward Griffith’s car, rummaging around in my bag. I pulled out my phone, lip balm, an energy bar, a cotton scarf, a sleep-now charm wrapped in flannel, a packet of tissues, and a tube of sunscreen.

Finally, I found the Midsummer amulet my mother had made for me. She’d placed the herbs in a cotton bag and tied it closed with a strand of yarn she’d spun out of alpaca wool. I held the amulet close to my face, breathing in the scents of basil, rue, and rowan, and cast a find-me spell on it, whispering the familiar words. I finished the spell just as Griffith pulled out of the parking spot. I tossed the amulet into the back seat of his convertible, and then I turned and ran toward 6th Street, where my little blue Subaru was parked.

I didn’t know where Griffith was taking Brianna, but thanks to the amulet my mother had made for me, I could now follow them.

I reached my car and got in, saying the words to trigger the finding part of the spell I’d just cast as I turned my key in the ignition. A thin line of silvery light appeared in front of my car, invisible to anyone but me. I pulled out of my parking space and headed west, following the faint, sparkling thread that led to the amulet—and to Brianna and Griffith.

—from “Inside a Fairy Tale” by Jamie Ferguson

The Interview

Why did you choose to write a “twist” of “Sleeping Beauty?”

In early 2018 I wrote my first fairy tale retelling, “Magic and Machinery,” which appears in the Once Upon a Quest anthology. I based that story on the Brothers Grimm story “The Glass Coffin,” a German fairy tale which is a variant of Sleeping Beauty. When I went to write “Inside a Fairy Tale” I looked at several other fairy tales, but kept coming back to “The Glass Coffin” even though I’d already used it as the basis for one story. Finally I decided to assume my subconscious had its own reasons for this, even if I didn’t know what they were. 🙂

One of the main reasons I chose “The Glass Coffin” is because I wanted to work with a fairy tale that had a strong female character. Finding a story like that was a lot more work than I’d expected, which I found quite aggravating. The female character in “The Glass Coffin” is actually a very strong character—I suspect that this story was originally her story, and that the tailor who rescues her was added to it later. He doesn’t do anything of significance in the story other than open the coffin and have the maiden thank him and, within minutes, announce that she’ll marry him as his reward. The maiden, on the other hand had a whole backstory about her parents and brother, and she bravely fought off the evil wizard’s advances before being jammed into the coffin. I get immensely annoyed by stories where the man gets the woman’s hand in marriage when he didn’t do anything other than show up. So I decided to take this story and make it the woman’s tale in both “Magic and Machinery” and “Inside a Fairy Tale.”

You often write about witches or other beings with magical powers. What is it about you that makes you so interested in magic? And how do you decide what “magical” elements your characters use? 

I’ve enjoyed reading stories with fantastical elements since I was a kid, so I think I just ended up writing stories that involve magic because I like reading them. I usually base what I write off of traditional mythology, but with my fantasy stories I have the freedom to make things up as well, which is really fun.

I’ve found myself reusing the same types of magic  in multiple stories. In my novel Entangled by Midsummer, there’s a witch who incorporates herbs and flowers and other natural things into her magic.

I really enjoyed writing the magical scenes, and found myself using a similar approach in an unrelated story. And then I thought: maybe the two stories are related after all? Since then I’ve intentionally used the same approach to magic in a number of different stories, knowing these stories are actually related—even if the readers don’t. It’s been really fun to build on what I’ve created with each one.

The original story had both a traditionally heterosexual hero and heroine. What inspired you to change the lovers to be two women?  

This goes back to my annoyance at the chauvinistic aspect of “The Glass Coffin.” I wanted Valentina, the protagonist in “Inside a Fairy Tale,” to be a strong female character, and I decided to go one step further by making her love interest a woman instead of a man. 🙂 In this story, both women are strong characters, which I very much enjoyed writing.

This story is set in a place very much like Boulder, Colorado, where you live. Is there something magical that you sense in Boulder that might make it a likely place for other magical beings to live in?  

The story is actually set in Boulder. The opening scene, where Valentina is standing on the rooftop patio of a local restaurant looking at the mountains, is based on an actual patio I stood on last summer. 🙂

I don’t know if magic is real or not—if it is, I can’t sense it, either in Boulder or anywhere else. But I like the idea of magic, and I love living in Boulder, so it was fun to combine the two.

Do you have any plans to write more about Valentina and Brianna or Griffith? 

I’m planning on writing a cozy witch series of novels that’s set in Boulder, and while writing “Inside a Fairy Tale” I seriously considered using Valentina as the protagonist for that series. I had five solid ideas and, after reviewing them to see how well they’d work for a series, decided I’d wrapped up Valentina and Brianna’s story, so I took them off the list. I could have written more with them, but I want to have a romantic element to the cozy series, and I didn’t want to complicate Valentina’s love life. 🙂 I am considering having Valentina make a cameo appearance in the series, though, and have even mapped out the scene in my head. We’ll see what happens when I get to that project!

Are there any other fairy tales that you’re thinking about retelling, reimagining, or reinventing? Or would you write another variation on the theme? 

I’ll write at least one more this year for a new anthology which requires one of the main characters to be a queen. I don’t have the fairy tale I’ll base it on picked out yet, but guarantee that my queen will be a strong woman—regardless of how strong the queen is in the original fairy tale. 🙂

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

I’m working on revisions for my next novel, a fantasy involving a selkie, faeries, and magic. It’s fun because I really love this story, and I’m excited about finally finishing it. Like many of my novels, it started off as a short story that kept not ending. 🙂 I’ve written five or six short stories in the same universe, and have more books planned as well. I’ve really enjoyed creating exploring this world, and can’t wait to see what I end up writing in it next!

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 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.

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Interview: Stefon Mears on “The Fennigsan’s Challenge”

“The Fennigsan’s Challenge” 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 Stefon Mears!

Stefon began reading with children’s versions of Greek and Norse myths, and quickly graduated to authors like Tolkein and Moorcock, and then to playing Dungeons and Dragons. Today he writes fantasy and science fiction, collects books on the occult, and entertains his cats.

“The Fennigsan’s Challenge”

Lloxup is robbed and left for dead, and then comes across the Fennigsan, the legendary Dark Lady of the Woods. If he passes her challenge, her power could change his life. But failure means death.

Excerpt

“Tell me, Lloxup of Lliost Reach, suppose I offered you the prize you seek without facing the challenge. And I said that all you had to do was offer me your manservant for my supper pot.

“What would you say to that?”

“Take the deal,” said Torvius quickly. “We’re both dead the other way—”

“Silence, manservant!” The Fennigsan’s voice cracked like fire snapping a huge log. “I asked the noble.”

“His name is Torvius, not manservant,” said Lloxup, forcing himself to stand straight without the cane and gritting his teeth against the fiery pain in his knee. He held the cane like a weapon, but not yet menacing. “And I have come for your challenge, but I would sooner die myself than sacrifice him.”

“Yes,” the Fennigsan said softly with a series of slight nods. “I believe you would.” She drew a deep, rickety breath and said, “All right, fourth son of a duke, you may face my challenge.”

She turned to Torvius. “And you may leave.”

“I will not abandon him,” said Torvius.

“Have a care. If you fail I shall claim you both for my pot, but if you succeed only one can claim the prize.”

Torvius stepped up behind Lloxup in a show of solidarity.

“Very well,” said the Fennigsan, with another cackle. “More meat for my pot.”

—from “The Fennigsan’s Challenge” by Stefon Mears

The Interview

 Lloxup, the protagonist in “The Fennigsan’s Challenge,” has to accomplish tasks to achieve a goal—and the price of failure is death. What inspired you to create this incarnation of a familiar fairy tale trope? 

Fairy tales, myths and legends have always been part of my life, going back before I was reading for myself. It was simply inescapable that when I started writing, I’d need to tell some of my own versions of such stories. In fact, the first short story I ever had picked up by a magazine was “Bedfellow,” a modern fairy tale about three young CEO’s out to win the favor of a mighty senator. I’ve also written my own update of the occasional folk tale, such as On the Edge of Fairie, a modern update of the Scottish tale in Tam Lin, set on the California coast.

When it came time to write “The Fennigsan’s Challenge,” I wanted to do a slight twist on a traditional fairy tale form. A guy who’d already tried to make his fortune, and failed. A man at the end of his rope, meeting an old woman who wasn’t out to help him, but might anyway…

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

Whuf. My first thought is that this kind of analysis deserves a graduate thesis to be done proper justice.

I’ll try to say something brief but still useful though.

A big difference between the old fairy tales and the modern retellings is that the modern retellings are instantly fixed. The old tales started in the oral tradition. They would change a bit from town to town and region to region, with mainly the core elements staying intact and the details changing to suit the location.

If there was a forest in the story, it would be the forest near the town where the story was told. It gave the stories an immediacy for the listeners.

That kind of oral storytelling still exists, but it’s on the periphery of modern American society, rather than central. More often, we write our stories down, which fixes the sense of where they happened. There’s an advantage in the sense that the stories can spread farther and wider, and be enjoyed in precisely the way the writer intended. But that immediacy and connection is lost.

Traditional fairy tales varied depending on where the tellers lived. For example, Scandinavian fairy tales often included characters and elements related to their landscape. Is there a geographical region whose fairy tales resonate with you? And if so, why?

I grew up mostly with the Celtic and the Germanic fairy tales, including some family variations on the classics.

Though speaking of geographical elements, I’ve always found forests especially inspiring. It’s part of the reason that I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where I can be surrounded by vast forests anytime I want.

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?

If I had to pick one, I’d probably say Tam Lin. A human in love with a sidhe, plus the shape shifting aspect of the story. All of it, really. In fact, I suspect that this tale inspired one of the major characters of the Rise of Magic series. I’d say which one, but it would be a spoiler.

Your series Rise of Magic is set six decades after magic overthrew technology. what’s your favorite part of writing in this universe?

Just one thing? Oh, that’s a tough choice. I think it’s got to be this.

I wasn’t much more than a kid when I borrowed Randal Garrett’s Lord Darcy books from my brother’s girlfriend. They’re mysteries, set in an alternate timeline where magic ascended hundreds of years prior, back in the era of Richard the Lionheart. Physical sciences took a backseat to organized magic.

Lord Darcy himself is a Sherlock Holmes type of character, and his Dr. Watson is a forensic sorcerer by the name of Master Sean O’Lochlainn.

I was enthralled by the world Garrett portrayed in a single novel and two short story collections. My Rise of Magic universe is nothing like his, but his work absolutely inspired me to create it.

And somewhere inside me, the kid who borrowed those books thrills every time I sit down to write another Rise of Magic tale.

You have a large collection of books about the occult. How have these books helped with your Spells for Hire series? 

That’s actually kind of backwards. It’s more that writing Spells for Hire books gives me an excuse to draw on my vast occult library.

Stefon’s occult book collection

I’m pretty sure all writers think about human nature. Some come at it from the angle of psychology or sociology. I’ve always started with people’s belief systems. It’s the reason that my undergraduate degree is in Religious Studies, with a double emphasis in Mythology and Ritual.

But I think there’s even more to learn from the magical practices of this world. They have a lot to teach about goals, interpersonal relationships, priorities, and more.

Most of what I draw on for the Spells for Hire series is Hoodoo and Conjure, of course. After all, the main character is a Hoodoo man. And I always have a few relevant books handy when writing those stories.

Along similar lines, the Rise of Magic series draws significantly on Western Ceremonial Magic (or Magick, if you prefer), albeit with a fictitious spin. Especially the Enochian work of Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly. That’s a fun system to use for fiction, because even most people who know about it, don’t really know it well.

You’ve engraved your own set of Norse runes. 🙂 Why?

I’ve made a deep study of the Norse runes. They’re heavily entrenched in both Norse myth and Norse magical practices. (Well, and to a lesser extent, in Celtic myths and magic as well, through the Ogham script, but this question was about the runes). I have about a dozen books on the runes alone, both historical and what R.I. Page would call “imaginative.”

Engraving my own set of the Elder Futhark runes was part of that study.

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

I’ve learned the hard way that admitting what I’m writing currently tends to hamstring me. Just one of those weird mental quirks. I can tell you that I’ve recently completed the next Spells for Hire books, and it should be out this summer.

The most fun for me in that one was writing Heath’s grandmother, who has come to town for a visit…

About Stefon

Stefon Mears grew up in California, Middle-Earth, and Amber. He went to U.C. Berkeley intending to major in Genetics, but the call of storytelling compelled him to graduate with a B.A. in Religious Studies (double emphasis in Mythology and Ritual). He later earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, with a Fiction major, and has published many short stories, poems and essays.

Stefon has been an invited guest at a major Vodou ceremony in New Orleans, taught classes in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, spoken on a panel at one World Fantasy Conference and given a reading at another, and engraved his own set of Norse runes.

Stefon has worked as a professional audio engineer and played straight pool for money. He is an avid, lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three cats, and when not writing he can often be found playing role playing games.

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Interview: Dayle A. Dermatis on “If the Shoe Fits”

“If the Shoe Fits” 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 Dayle A. Dermatis!

Hi, I’m Dayle. I write stuff. I write in almost every genre, and I’m happiest when I’m mashing a few of them together in the same story or novel. I’ve had more than a hundred short stories published, most recently in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Fiction River: Summer Sizzles. Since I’m apparently not busy enough, I’ve been trying my hand at editing. Fiction River: Doorways to Enchantment comes out soon, and I’m working on another volume of Fiction River as well as a charity anthology.

As Andrea Dale, I write erotica and erotic stuff. Sometimes mashed together with other genres. Want a lesbian erotic romance with a ghost? A shapeshifting cat/woman? How about a steamy rock star? If so, I’m your girl.

I live in the lush Pacific Northwest in a historic English-style cottage filled with Pre-Raphaelite paintings, a husband, a lodger, and the usual cats, books, etc.

“If the Shoe Fits”

Is Prince Charming really interested in Cinderella…or was it her shoes that captured his attention?

Excerpt

When I heard the royal family would be holding a ball to find suitable wife material for the prince and heir, my mind went into overdrive.

But not in the way anyone would expect.

I didn’t have specific information about how a royal household was run; I didn’t know the number and skill sets of the servants, or even how many people would be invited to this shindig. But within ten minutes I had a pretty good sense of how much it would cost per person, even factoring in peacock meat (which seemed like a waste to me, what with chickens being that much cheaper per pound, but I also understood the art of entertaining sometimes meant being flashy to impress certain guests).

Not, mind you, that it was any of my business. Party planning wasn’t really where I wanted to end up, but I loved the idea of it. Just the way my brain works: a challenge, a puzzle. I can put together a fundraising dinner and auction for fifty people without breaking a sweat. The concept of overseeing a royal ball made me go squee (on the inside).

Actually going to the ball? Meh. Marrying royalty didn’t interest me in the least, and besides, I had finals coming up.

My aunt, Sheila, thought differently.

—from “If the Shoe Fits” by Dayle A. Dermatis

The Interview

What inspired you to write “If the Shoe Fits?”

I was at an anthology workshop on the Oregon Coast, where we had to write a story in 24 hours while also being in the workshop for 8 hours. The theme was The Trouble With Heroes, with the idea that fairy-tale heroes are all well and good when they’re out rescuing princesses, etc., but they must be less than optimal once you’ve settled down with them—in part because they’re probably always running off to do heroic things. I started off with the idea of a modern Cinderella who wasn’t interested in the prince, and off the story went. (It first appeared in The Trouble With Heroes from DAW Books in 2009.)

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

I’ve always loved fairy stories and fairy tales. I’m pretty sure I worked my way through all the Lang fairy tale books, including ecru and puce and goose-turd green. Additionally, I love urban fantasy, where the veil between our world and Faerie is thin. But most of all, I really like riffing off fairy tales and exploring the truths behind them while often updating them or turning them on their heads. (And as Andrea Dale, I’ve written quite a few erotica stories inspired by fairy tales!)

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 think all of the classics are compelling, but my favorite from the time I was young was Beauty and the Beast. For one thing, she was a brunette, as am I (well, I’m a purpled brunette)—all the other princesses were blond. Also, she loved to read books, which really spoke to me. And she wasn’t a princess to begin with, which made her more relatable.

Many fairy tales were to teach young women about men, whom they would eventually marry, but who seemed foreign and beastly. In The Princess and the Frog, the princess turned the frog (i.e., beast) into a man with a kiss. But she was a horrible, whiny, bratty, animal abusing liar. Belle, on the other hand, was gentle and kind even as she was brave enough to stand up to the beast. She “changed” him because she was caring, not because she was cruel.

FYI, this year I’ll be releasing a YA novel called Beautiful Beast, which is a modern lesbian romance inspired by Beauty and the Beast. Look for it in a few months!

You’ve written a few short stories about Nikki Ashburne, a former party girl who develops the ability to see ghosts, and are now writing a series of novels featuring Nikki. How did you come up with the idea for these stories? 

About 20 years ago, I moved to Wales for four years. When I returned to Southern California, I was confused by all these new “celebrities” who didn’t seem to do anything. I would ask people, “Who’s Jessica Simpson exactly?” They’d say, “Well, she was on this show…” “So she’s an actress?” “Well, no, not really…”

Nikki ended up being an amalgam of many celebrity party girls, and she’s now navigating not being famous anymore. Unlike the cliché, she’s smart and also very snarky—I love writing in her voice! She makes me laugh out loud.

Also, I love ghost stories. Anyway, all of these things crashed together in my weird brain, and the rest is history.

The first novel in the series, Ghosted, is currently available. Shaded will be out later this year, followed at some point by Spectered and a collection of short stories.  

You’ve recently met some otters! Tell us about this awesome experience! 

Otters! Oh, I love me some otters. Whenever I go somewhere where there are otters, I have to be dragged away  urs with meerkats, and one Valentine’s Day he surprised me with an in-water dolphin experience, so there’s a trend.)

The otters (Asian river otters, my absolute favorites) were freaking adorable! It was all I could do not to squee nonstop (I did cry a little). One of them accidentally bit me—she liked grabbing the hem of jeans and pulling, and she saw my t-shirt sleeve as a similar piece of fabric. She just grazed me, and I have a fading scar on my upper arm in the shape of a smile. I was really, really hoping it meant I’d gain otter superpowers or become a were-otter, but so far, nada. (Dammit, I forgot the radiation!)

The best part was when one of the otters fell asleep, belly up, in my lap. I realized river otters are basically aquatic cats who like having their bellies rubbed.

Sadly, I was unable to smuggle the otter out of the petting zoo, in case anyone was wondering.

What’s your favorite Styx song? 🙂 

Depends on the day. Sometimes it depends on the hour. I’ve seen them live 150 times and during a concert, it’s the song they’re currently performing.

“One With Everything” is pretty high up there, though. And their new album, The Mission (a concept album about a mission to Mars), is amazing.

Tell us about your cats! 

How much time do you have? Really, I could talk about them for days.

We have four at present. Goose is our eldercat, and was bottle-raised by his former guardian, so he still thinks he’s a kitten. I had to get a baby sling for him because he insists on being held, and I can’t hold him and type. Clara is deaf and mostly toothless, small, and sweet. Because she can’t hear, she screams. As in, she wakes up and wants to ask the household where everybody is. Hamish is an enormous orange cat with a tiny peep of a meow and cauliflower ears. He loooooves having his belly rubbed. Walk into the room and exclaim “Hamish!” and he’ll roll over and start purring before you even touch him. Bonny Lass is our beautiful grey girl. She mostly trills. She’s the only non-lap cat, but she likes to be close by and get lots of pets.

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

I’m at a week long writing retreat as I type this, where I plan to write a long-overdue short story, finish Beautiful Beast, and ideally (fingers crossed) finish Shaded. Then I’m a-gonna start Spectered, unless something else gets in the way. Oh, and I have a story due for the next Mercedes Lackey Valdemar anthology due soon. Eep!

About Dayle

Hailed as “one of the best writers working today” by bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith, Dayle A. Dermatis is the author or coauthor of many novels and more than a hundred short stories in multiple genres, including urban fantasy novel Ghosted. She is the mastermind behind the Uncollected Anthology project, and her short fiction has been lauded in 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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Interview: Pam McCutcheon on “After the Ball”

“After the Ball” 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 Pam McCutcheon!

Pam writes romance, young adult/new adult urban fantasy, and fantasy. She writes humorous romance in the Dogwood series, which she collaborates on with a number of her author friends, and which allows her to combine her love for writing with her love for dogs.

“After the Ball”

Cinderella’s stepmother gets the chance to tell her side of the story….

Excerpt

Griselda seethed in silence. She and her poor, mistreated daughters were forced to stand humbled before the few members of the court while her stepdaughter was allowed to sit in the royal presence. It was so unfair. Cinderella had captured the prince’s heart with her evil, deceitful spells and Griselda’s daughters were left with nothing but ashes. Worse, they had to stay mute behind their mother and watch as she was unjustly humiliated.

Griselda raised her chin. “I have done nothing wrong. What am I accused of?”

The elegant dark-haired queen, who still retained the beauty she had been famed for in her youth, frowned. “You are accused of being a bad parent to an orphaned child left in your care, of treating a gentlewoman like a servant, and of being cruel to a gentle soul.”

Griselda almost snorted in disbelief. Cinderella, a gentle soul? The conniving chit was more wily and crafty than anyone she knew. And being a bad parent was no crime, or half the parents in the kingdom would be in the dungeons.

“She has bewitched all of you,” Griselda said scornfully. None more so than the prince, who stared, besotted, at Cinderella’s glowing beauty. And where, pray tell, did they think she had acquired her good looks? She certainly hadn’t looked like that before the ball.

—from “After the Ball” by Pam McCutcheon

The Interview

“After the Ball” is a fun look at the story of Cinderella from the point of view of Griselda, Cinderella’s stepmother. What was your favorite part about writing this story? 

Someone asked me to rewrite a fairy tale from the point of view of one of the secondary characters. I loved writing how Cinderella’s actions appeared to her evil stepmother…who obviously didn’t think she was the villain.

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?

Somewhat. A lot of the original fairy tales (as told by the Brothers Grimm) were really grim (pun intended). They’ve been sanitized for today’s audience, so the lessons aren’t as pointed, or as scary.

Is there a fairy tale 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 can’t say that there’s just one. Fairy tales were the first stories I fell in love with as a child—the sanitized versions, of course—which led to my love of fantasy, science fiction, and all things paranormal.

You’ve participated in several series where each author writes one (or more) novels. What have you learned from these projects?

That communication is extremely important to ensure the authors don’t step on each other’s toes, are respectful of each other’s characters, and ensure the world is cohesive.

In addition to writing fantasy, romantic comedy, and paranormal romance, you write YA fantasy under the pen name Parker Blue. What do you enjoy about writing under two different names, and is the experience of writing different depending on which persona you’re writing as? 

All of all my stories have comedy in them in one way or another, with the exception of a dark novella that I wrote to prove to myself that I could. I didn’t enjoy that one as much though, so humor is a constant now, whether it’s mildly amusing or slapstick. Parker Blue is a bit darker and more sarcastic than Pam, and has a snarky telepathic hound who readers (and I) love. I have to reread my books to get back in the right “voice” to write as Parker Blue, so it takes a bit more immersion in the world to get in the right head space to do that. But once I’m in, I love the ability to say things in my writing that I would never say out loud…though my friends would tell you I’m not afraid to say anything. 🙂

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

I just finished a short story in a shared world I’m writing with friends. It’s a sweet romance series set in a fictional town where a matchmaking dog brings soul mates together. Hey, it’s about dogs. What’s not to like? But since Parker Blue fans are getting restless, I’m working on a series of four novellas in that Demon Underground series about some of the secondary characters who really appeal to me. Again, writing about my snarky hellhound Fang and his partner, a vampire-hunting teenaged succubus is a blast!

About Pam

Pam McCutcheon is the award-winning author of romance novels ranging from fantasy, futuristic, paranormal and time travel to contemporary romantic comedy. She also has two nonfiction how-to books for writers in print, has written fantasy short stories, and writes the Demon Underground New Adult urban fantasy series under the name Parker Blue.

After many years of working for the military as enlisted, officer and civil service successively, she left her industrial engineering position to pursue her first love—a career in publishing. She can be found in beautiful Colorado Springs with her dog Honey.

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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.

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