Interview: Deb Logan on “Beauty or Butterface?”

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

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

Meet Deb Logan!

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

“Beauty or Butterface?”

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


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

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

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

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

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

—from “Beauty or Butterface?” by Deb Logan

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Deb

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

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Interview: Brigid Collins on “Claws at Hand”

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

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

Meet Brigid Collins!

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

“Claws at Hand”

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


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

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

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

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

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

—from “Claws at Hand” by Brigid Collins

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Brigid

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

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

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

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

Meet Karen L. Abrahamson!

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

“Like Wind Over Water”

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


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

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

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

Or maybe it was.

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I seriously love nats…

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

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

Tell us about your cats! 

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

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

I won’t say anymore. They are listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Karen

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

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

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

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

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

Meet DeAnna Knippling!

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

“Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match”

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


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

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

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

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

“Don’t touch anything,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shh.  It’s a secret.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About DeAnna

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

Find DeAnna

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

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

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

Meet Annie Reed

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

“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad”

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Annie

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

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

Find Annie

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Find Innocence and Deceit!

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

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

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

Meet Todd Fahnestock and Giles Carwyn!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Things went downhill after that.

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

The Interview – Giles Carwyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview – Todd Fahnestock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Todd

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

Find Todd

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About Giles

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

Find Giles

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Interview: Leah Cutter on “The Lizard Horses”

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

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

Meet Leah Cutter!

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

“The Lizard Horses”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—from The Lizard Horses by Leah Cutter

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Leah

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

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

Find Leah

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Interview: Authors celebrating National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

February 26th, 2019 is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

A group of eight Colorado authors will be celebrating this festive day by telling fairy tales at BookBar in Denver, Colorado. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to their stories!

In this interview, the authors answer a few questions about fairy tales. 🙂

Meet the authors!

The authors reading from their work at BookBar are:

  • Diana Benedict
    Reading from “Summerland’s Paladin,” a short story in the Midwinter Fae anthology.
  • Cheryl Carpinello
    Reading “The Legend of the Red Deer & the Unicorns” from her book Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, and from “Tales of the Arabian Nights.”
  • J. A. Kazimer
    Reading from her novel CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery.
  • Lindsay King-Miller
    Reading “The Third Bride,” an unpublished short story.
  • Shannon Lawrence
    Reading “The Black Undeath,” a short story in the Once Upon a Scream anthology.
  • Lisa Manifold
    Reading from her novel Thea’s Tale, as well as from her work-in-progress.
  • Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
    Reading a poem titled “Swan Soup” and a short story, “Down in the Water.”
  • Lisa Trank
    Reading a family fairy tale about locusts.

The Interview

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

Sarah: First I think I like incorporating fairy tales into my own writing because it’s impossible not to although they can be far more disguised. It’s like Kurt Vonnegut said about how there are only so many plots out there (“Cinderella” being one of them) so why not choose to do it deliberately? Furthermore, the archetypes from the tales and the motifs too carry so much symbolic energy that they make my job easier (even if I’m twisting the original story or starting “Snow White” in the casket while she’s dead).

Diana: Fairy tales are archetypal, they depict Everyman stories. They reach way back into early people’s psyche and you can tell what was important to them and how they saw the world. I really like that animals can be active characters with their own motivations and purposes, too. I love pulling that magical aspect of storytelling into my stories. I love all my “children”, but the ones with fairy tale elements are my special babies.

Julie: People have all these expectations of fairytale characters, so my joy comes from twisting those expectations in a humorous way. For example, in CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery, gone are Goldie Locks’ trespassing ways, instead she’s a cop solving fairytale-on-fairytale crimes, with her adoptive Bear family helping out at every turn.

Lisa T.: I love messing with traditions and playing on our shared fears, phobias, and misreadings of mythologies. Fairy tales were never supposed to have happy endings—Grimm’s Fairy Tales are dark and devious, which allow us to explore that part of our psyche.

Shannon: There’s something fun about taking the familiar and twisting it into something new. Fairy tales were originally meant to be dark, but at some point we made them cheerful and endearing. I love taking them back to their more sinister roots.

Cheryl: For me, Fairy Tales also encompass folklore and legends. In my writing for ages 9-15, I love introducing readers to tales that have been around for ages and are still relevant today. The broad definition of Fairy Tales also allows me to introduce my own tales into my writing. It’s a delight when I talk with young readers who may or may not know the story of King Arthur, but when I ask if they know the Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorns, their eyes sparkle in anticipation of hearing the story.

Lindsay: Can I say that I just really like taking these ancient, archetypal stories and making them gay? There’s so much weight and symbolism in fairy tales, and I find it really satisfying to apply those layers of history and nuance to people who haven’t always appeared in stories. Queer retellings of fairy tales have so much power—they can subvert expectations in really meaningful ways.

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?

Sarah: Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with “Little Red Riding Hood.” I think I’ve always been drawn to it, and other fairy tale-like stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because it’s a GIRL on a JOURNEY by herself and with the exception of what Charles Perrault tried to do to Red back in the Court of the Sun King when he killed her off, she isn’t some helpless princess with privilege but a peasant girl who fends for herself and survives. I wrote my undergraduate critical thesis on her evolution from oral folktale (Middle Ages) to the twentieth century via storytelling and cinema and found that she goes from being the prey to preying on the predator (I specifically looked at how Hard Candy starring Ellen Page is a modern retelling). Originally Red didn’t even wear red and was a warning tale about werewolves where she outsmarted the wolf and escaped. Then Perrault came along and cloaked her in the harlot red and killed her off with a tidy bow of a moral at the end for the Brothers Grimm to come along in the 19th century and have a man (the woodcutter) come along and rescue her. She went through some strange phases in the 1950s/1960s, particularly with Anne Sexton’s Transformations, and the feminist strangeness that was Angela Carter with her wolf trilogy as presented in her short story collection, The Bloody Chamber where Red beds/weds the wolf and then Joyce Carol Oates’ almost timeless sociopath killer as wolf/devil retelling, “Where are you going? Where have you been?” and the relatively terrible film they made of it titled Smooth Talk followed by Freeway starring Reese Witherspoon who does outsmart the “wolf” and finally Hard Candy as mentioned above. My short answer is this: I love “Little Red Riding Hood” because I want to walk with wolves, even werewolves. I don’t necessarily care for all the marriage-centric fairy tales out there like “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty” although I do love all the magic.

Diana: I love Puss in Boots. I mentioned that I love animals that have their own purpose and motivations. Puss is a very active character. He manages the young man who inherits him quite handily, ignoring the ignorant fellow’s short-sighted plan of eating the cat and making a muff of his fur. He convinces the man to obtain a pair of boots and pouch for him and sets out to make the man’s fortune for him. At every turn he has a plan to acquire a fortune and a fine wife for his person. The young man just goes along, doing as he is told and manages to not make a fool of himself and ends up with a fine castle and the king’s daughter for his wife. Puss makes a life of ease where he only hunts mice for fun when he desires. Smart cat with a fine sense of style and drama!

Julie: Cinderella all the way. I have to know, before I die, how she managed to walk in glass slippers. Those things have no give. My own feet hurt just thinking about it.

Lisa T.: Jack and the Beanstalk. Hans Christian Anderson. I also love the Sholem Alechem tales of the Golem.

Shannon: I’ve always been drawn to Little Red Riding Hood. Who among us hasn’t felt alone, isolated? Sleeping Beauty was a favorite, as well. But in her case, it was all about Maleficent in the Disney version. There’s another story that’s always stuck with me, and I can’t remember the name. It’s the young woman who goes to become a bride, but something happens, and she is instead made into the goose keeper. Her horse’s head is cut off and mounted on the gate she must pass under every day. It was so twisted, but also had a satisfying end.

Cheryl: I’m not a traditional fairy tale lover. In case you weren’t sure, my love is Arthurian Legend. I find that the continued popularity of this legend makes it also one of most loved. There aren’t many years that go by without a new version of King Arthur making a debut. I’ll get into why in the next question.

Lindsay: The Little Mermaid. Andersen’s original story, not the Disney version—it was so grotesque. She walked on knives! She cut out her tongue! And she still didn’t get what she wanted. There’s something so primal about that, about what women have to go through to prove their worth, and how it might never be enough. I know a lot of fairy tales are dark, but as a horror writer I’m particularly drawn to the mermaid and her suffering.

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?

Diana: Some of them provide some of the earliest lessons in behavior and we still look to them or we should. Even as kids we knew not to talk to strangers and be kind to old ladies with warts lest they eat you or curse you for your rudeness. Although, maybe kids nowadays don’t know the stories or haven’t suffered consequences for their behavior. There’s a story there. Would kids today know to never use bread crumbs for a trail because squirrels or something would eat them and they’d be lost somewhere really scary?

Julie: Even more so. Think about Little Red Riding Hood. The lesson is, ‘listen to your parents and don’t stray off the path’ else you’ll be consumed by a wolf who looks a whole lot like Grammy. The lesson still applies, though the wolf part seems like a long shot.

Lisa T.: As we continue to reinvent fairy tales, we also reinvent those lessons and that pushes against the boundaries of how we are conditioned to believe certain things about the world. I was terrified of grasshoppers because I’d grown up with this strange story from my mom’s childhood. But when our cat started hunting them and bringing the carcasses into our apartment, it gave me a different perspective and appreciation of them. And of course, writing always transforms things.

Shannon: The base of most of those stories still stands. Whether it’s about sneaking out, selfishness, strangers, or liking yourself the way you are, they still make sense.

Cheryl: Definitely. I’ve written articles on Arthurian Legend’s relevance and popularity in today’s world. Briefly, the Legend brings about the importance of friendship, loyalty, honor, treatment of those less fortunate, and appropriate behavior for many occasions to name a few. Important lessons which sometimes are not stressed enough today. Having these values already embedded in the Legend lets me create believable and identifiable characters for my young readers.

What do and/or don’t you like about traditional fairy tales?

Sarah: Obviously all the characters are stock characters, and all the female characters are held prisoner of the gender constraints of a largely Christian mindset, and maybe it’s because I’m in my forties now but I get more and more tired of the way the older women in fairy tales are hags or conniving witches. I used to be bothered more by how helpless and husband-obsessed the maidens were. Now I’m worried about the witches exiled to the woods or the barren stone towers of menopause.

Diana: Perrault reworked them into moral stories. A lot of them reduced girls/women to helpless creatures that needed to be rescued, when there are lots of other stories about women and girls who were strong and clever in their own right. I want to read stories about really strong girls and women who overcome adversity and win through cleverness.

Julie: Everything said above, and add in the rapier elements of finding helpless women in comas and assaulting them.

Lisa T.: The whole Disney take on fairy tales has really twisted generations of girls and women into expectations of being saved and way too thin waists! It’s insidious, gendered, and comes from a pretty privileged stance. Even the “modern” princesses—the entire idea of royalty being the standard for our imagination turns me off.

Shannon: I have to agree with the inherent sexism in some of these stories. You can really tell what stage of life you’re in as a woman based upon what stands out most to you at any given time. No matter how aware we are of the issues now, there’s little bit of fairy tale thought that someone will come along and rescue you.

Cheryl: Fairy Tales always reflect the society in which they were first told or written; these do not reflect the norm in today’s world. Most of the storylines have to be taken lightly while looking deeper for the values expressed.

Lindsay: I find most fairy tales insufficiently gay. I’m working on it.

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

Sarah: There is more of a tendency now to uncloak the alleged villains in the fairy tales of old and either prove they aren’t evil or there is a damn good reason for why they do what they do or ended up the way they did (I’m thinking in particular of the film Maleficent and how it took the “bad” fairy godmother from “Sleeping Beauty” and unpacked her character to essentially reveal a date rape situation [a metaphor for rape when her wings are cut off after she’s drugged by a man she trusts and even loves]). As a stepmother I haven’t always appreciated the way fairy tales represent us all as vain, scheming, evil, and jealous but then I started digging deeper and found the stepmother in “Snow White” at least was originally the girl’s biological mother and I’m not sure what’s worse.

Diana: I think that fairy tales represent whatever the society needs them to. That’s how stories full of dire and explicit warnings for avoiding physical danger in a cruel world become moral stories of how to behave in society. That’s how Red Riding Hood goes through so many aspects.I think modern Disney princess movies speak (more and more) to empowering girls, which is a good thing, mostly. Frozen is the latest in a series of modern fairy tales with a powerful message for little girls. I think what is important is that these stories contain that magic, those constructs which take the reader or watcher out of the everyday world and places them smack in the magical realm of story which speaks to the oldest part of our humanity. We need magic, even more now, I think, with the advent of 24 hour technology.

Lisa T.: It’s interesting—I didn’t grow up reading fairy tales and I never read them to our three daughters. They didn’t even watch Disney princess movies because I was so repelled by them and the physical pressure they put on girls. And boys. I’m all for retelling and letting happy endings go.

Shannon: There are different iterations of the retellings. There are those that make them funnier, those that make them scarier, and those that make them more romantic, to name a few. They went from being cautionary tales to fantasies, which feels like the extreme opposite of their origins. Which is why I think the horror retellings are often closer to the original heart of the stories. I love all the variations, though, and i think we make them what we need them to be, whether that’s goofy, romantic, or scary.

Cheryl: Most of the retellings are an attempt to make those more relevant or to explain the significance of the tale. Many times this can be humorous as in the story of The Three Little Pigs told by the Big Bad Wolf.

Lindsay: My favorite fairy tale retellings are the ones that make you question what the original tale was teaching, because some of the virtues they were trying to instill are really questionable. There’s a lot about caution, obedience, passivity—especially for women—so I love to see writers approach them with a fresh eye and challenge the outdated wisdom they hoped to impart. I loved Julie C. Dao’s Snow White retelling, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, because it took this very passive character who is saved by the love and strength of others, and instead gave her a quest and a way to save herself.

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 more with you? And if so, why?

Diana: The Middle East has always resonated for me. I read a lot of mythology as a kid and I was sad to see that women and girls were not very strong or clever or if they were, they ended up punished. There are stories that you can find if you search hard. I was lucky to find a copy of Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, which is a collection of stories about plucky girls from all over the world edited by Kathleen Ragan. Also Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. Both of these books do share stories of geographical areas, but more they show women and girls being strong and competent.

Lisa T.: Sholem Alechem’s tales took place in small Jewish villages of Eastern Europe, much of which no longer exist. I turn to them for a connection to my ancestry and for the humor, even in the midst of tragedy and danger.

Shannon: I don’t know if they’d be considered fairy tales, really, more like mythology, but the ones that mean the most to me are Native American tales. Especially Coyote. Tricksters of any stripe will always be my favorite.

Cheryl: Aside from Arthurian Legend, I love those from Eastern Germany that the Grimm Brothers recorded and passed down to us. And I love the stories written today using the Greek Myths. I’m also a fan of the desert stories told in 1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights. I guess you could say I’m just a fan of tales, legends, and myths!

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

Diana: I am working on a story about a fairy who is forced to become princess in a mortal king’s castle as a way to preserve peace between the two races. I do enjoy the actual fae stories. All the tales of these people say they were a magical and clever people. There are lots of ways to cast them given the stories told of them. I get the impression they just wanted to live their lives and many humans were afraid of them or bulled their way over their way of life or hated them because they were different. I like playing with historical characters and watching how the fairy aspect changes how and why people do things. I like the main fairy character and I like watching her figure out how to obey her queen and make her way in a human world, even knowing that everything she might come to love will be dust even as she doesn’t age.

Julie: Since I just published CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery, I’ve been writing promotional pieces which have been a ton of fun. For example, I wrote a bit about a Day in the Life of Goldie Locks, where she is standing over a body, contemplating just how she got there. It’s always such a joy to go back to a character you wrote two years ago (as that’s how publishing schedules often work) and reconnect with them.

Lisa T.: I have a full length MG novel in submission and am starting on two projects—a picture book that is whimsical and loving (harder than I thought) and another full length middle grade novel that is fantasy and funny—based in Lower East Side and the Yiddish Theater. My grandparents were actors and many fairy tales were adapted for the Yiddish Theater. I’m excited to dive into that and have fun with mirror timelines and translations.

Shannon: I’ve got a couple along these lines going. One is a retelling of Rapunzel, but Rapunzel’s the predator, and her “hair” is woven, not actually hair. I’m also working on a sci-fi Bluebeard where he’s not a murderer and the women aren’t necessarily human. Both of these turn the original tales on their head, which I’m enjoying.

Cheryl: I’m finishing the 3rd book in my middle grade Guinevere trilogy. After that it’s onto the Ancient World with my Feathers of the Phoenix series. I love delving into my worlds be those medieval Britain, ancient Rome, or the lost city of Atlantis!

Lindsay: I’m working on several more short fairy tale retellings, mostly exploring the questions “what if this story were scarier?” and “what if this story were gay?” I’m also working on a fantasy story where the dragon turns out to be the good guy all along.

Sarah: I’ve been working on my second novel, Roadside Altars, for what feels like almost-forever. As is the tradition often in fairy tales, it features a grandmother, mother, and daughter (crone, mother, maiden) and uses the Tarot as the storyline (the Fool going through each of the major arcana cards). While it’s not as deliberately a fairy tale retelling as was my first book which was also only a subtle readaptation, Roadside is a road trip novel and in that way it’s once more “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” What I do know for sure is how I want the youngest character Krystal to travel around the country much like I did when I was a teenager–hopping trains and hitch-hiking–but I really want her to be a heroine always and I’m thinking I don’t want her to ever get hurt along the way. Maybe I can change the reality if I change the literary trope?

Find the Authors

Diana Benedict
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Cheryl Carpinello
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J. A. Kazimer
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Lindsay King-Miller
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Shannon Lawrence
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Lisa Manifold
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Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
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Lisa Trank
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Interview: Monalisa Foster and the Intellectual Property Tracker Kickstarter

What is Intellectual Property Tracker?

Intellectual Property Tracker is web-based software that allows writers to track all the important information associated with their product, i.e. their intellectual property (IP). Taglines, blurbs, sales copy, keywords, vendor and platform links, details about various formats (audio, POD, print, ebooks), publication history, submission history, IP rights management, details about advances, contracts, and promotion history, etc. Instead of keeping this important information in a tangle of spreadsheets, various documents, pieces of paper, etc., Intellectual Property Tracker allows you to have all the information in one place.

The Kickstarter ends on Wednesday, February 13th 2019, so check it out if you’d like to help fund the project AND get some of the awesome options available to supporters!

Meet Monalisa!

Monalisa is an author whose primary genre is science fiction with a bit (or a lot) of romance thrown in. She created Intellectual Property Tracker as a way to allow authors and publishers to track all the important information associated with their products.

The Interview

How can Intellectual Property Tracker help authors?

This application will free up time and energy for writing and creating. The idea for this product came out of the WMG’s Master Business Seminar in Las Vegas last fall. There I was sharing space with some incredible writers, a lot of them best sellers, most of them indies, and the ONE thing they all wanted (besides more time) was a way to manage all the information associated with their stories (i.e. their intellectual property).

Once you get to the stage where you have several stories out, you’re probably managing all sorts of information via binders, notebooks, spreadsheets, random pieces of paper, etc. The problem is that even when you do your best to keep everything up to date (whether in a spreadsheet or a notebook), taking that data and creating reports about what rights you’ve licensed, what rights are coming back to you, or which stories are performing better, or which series has the most read-through, can take up huge chunks of your time. Time that you’d be better off writing.

Let’s face it, as writers, we wear a lot of hats. And it’s easy to let details slip through the cracks, or not even be aware of which details to track. Even something simple like finding the blurb for ONE short story you wrote five years ago is going to eat into your time unless you have that information at your fingertips.

By giving you a structured system where you can organize everything in one place, Intellectual Property Tracker will free you up to do more of your creative work and spend less time looking for and managing the information associated with it.

The Kickstarter has met its funding goal, so what’s the advantage of someone supporting the Kickstarter at this point?

There are three advantages:

  1. saving money; the pledge levels offer you the plans at a savings.
  2. Dean Wesley Smith’s Magic Bakery Workshop on copyright and intellectual property is a $150 value on its own; you’re going to learn so many amazing things about copyright and how important it is to manage your rights in this class. Honestly, if you don’t know why stories are intellectual property and the value that intellectual property (IP) has to your success as a writer, you absolutely NEED this class, even if you’ve never published anything or if you’ve just had your first story accepted.
  3. for those that already have a few (or a dozen or a hundred) titles out and know about copyright and IP, the $500 Lifetime Plan is a Kickstarter special.

Why did you decide to create Intellectual Property Tracker?

The discussion at the WMG Publishing Master Business class was the seed for this project. Most people at the class were already attempting to do this with spreadsheets. And while spreadsheets are great for some things, what people were really trying to do required a database capable of not just tracking the information, but pulling data to generate reports and present them in a meaningful way. Some people try to use spreadsheets like a database, but often run into the problem of data integrity, and duplicate or conflicting data.

What is “The Magic Bakery,” and why is it relevant to Intellectual Property Tracker?

Dean Wesley Smith, a best-selling author and a wonderful teacher, uses the analogy of a “Magic Bakery” when discussing IP (your stories). And I think it’s an appropriate analogy for several reasons.

Imagine that your story is a pie. But unlike an apple pie in a real bakery, you only have to bake it once. You can slice it up (and not just into a dozen slices, but hundreds) and each one of those slices can be “sold” again and again.

If you’re doing it right, some of those slices come back to you to be “sold” again because unlike an apple pie, these slices don’t spoil. The slices in this case are analogous to the many different types of rights/licenses associated with your work.

This is a simplified version of things, but think of it this way:

You’ve got first publication, reprint right, audio rights, movie rights. Each one of those is a slice. Now take reprint rights. You can take that slice and make more slices if your story gets reprinted in one anthology this year and another down the road, or if your novel is part of a bundle or a box set.

Now imagine trying to track when your rights come back to you? What are your reversion dates? Did you have a snapback or clawback clause on that contract or that one? What were the reversion conditions?

Don’t know what I’m talking about? You should. And the Magic Bakery will teach you these things. That’s why it complements Intellectual Property Tracker so well and why we are so glad that Dean and WMG were generous enough to offer it for the Kickstarter.

What features do you plan to add to future versions?

We know that different writers have different workflows and that different things are important to them. Our current demo is very basic but will give you a “sketch” of the final product. It’s based on the discussion at the Master Business class. We also added a short second video based on a requested feature (the tracking and management of images).

So, as we get requests and input of what our writers want, we will continue to meet their needs. Someone wanted a way to track reviews, and that’s an example of a feature we’d add. Writers that don’t track reviews would just not use that feature.

Two things NOT in the demos are sorting features and reports. But both of those will be in the final product. So, for example, one report would allow you to look at all your titles and how they are performing, whether you want to look at that information arranged by date, venue, or market.

Another report I think is crucial is the one about reversion dates. So let’s say you want to know which titles are coming back to you in 60 (or 30 or 90 days) so that you can plan for a new cover or look for a new bundle. You’ll be able to generate a report showing you that information.

Do you want a graph showing you how well book 1 of a series is performing vs book 2 and book 3? There is going to be an easy way to do that. We know we haven’t thought of everything, but our goal is to keep our writers happy, so as long as they’re telling us what they want, we’ll continue improving Intellectual Property Tracker to meet their needs.

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

I’ve just finished up a novel, a space opera (think Dune and Barrayar but with genetically-engineered samurai). I’m currently working on the sequel and another side story in the same universe (one of these, “Dominion,” is going to be included in WMG’s Fiction River series, the Face the Strange anthology edited by Ron and Bridget Collins (scheduled for 2020 release).

My stories are a mix of the far-future (as in nanotech and genetic engineering) and the past, fusing the best and worst of both to create a world in which very human characters fight for what they love. There’s adventure and romance, swords and spaceships, honor and sacrifice. I had a lot of fun writing this story. It’s definitely the type of story that I myself enjoy, and I think readers will too.

I’m also collaborating on a romantic time-travel adventure (think Roman Britain) and working on a sequel to my hard sci-fi novella, Promethea Invicta.

Find Monalisa!

Monalisa won life’s lottery when she escaped communism and became an unhyphenated American citizen. Her works tend to explore themes of freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility. Despite her degree in physics, she’s worked in several fields including engineering and medicine, but she enjoys being a trophy wife and kept woman the most. She and her husband (who is a writer-once-removed via their marriage) are living their happily ever after in Texas, along with their children, both human and canine.

She learned English by reading and translating books from the juvenile section at the public library. She’d walk to the library with her dictionary and a notebook and start copying sentences and then translating them by hand. At home in the evenings, she’d take unfamiliar words and write them out ten times, or more, to get the spelling down. After a few days of this, a kindly librarian took pity on her and offered her a library card and then broke some rules in issuing one to a ten-year-old. This was back in the bad old days when kids were still free range and parents didn’t get jailed for letting them go places unsupervised. But, the library was air conditioned, an important thing when the temperature reaches triple digits, so she spent the summer there anyway, and along the way discovered Robert Heinlein and science fiction. It didn’t take long to devour the juvenile section and move on to the grown-up books.

Find Monalisa at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Interview: Bundle Up! by Jamie Ferguson


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This interview, in which DeAnna Knippling interviews Jamie J. Ferguson, originally appeared on the Wonderland Press website.

The Interview

1. First, tell us about bundles and other beasts. Briefly, what are they, who should buy them, and where can you get them? Optional: what’s your favorite format?

Until I started writing Bundle Up!, I’d never realized how confusing the terminology can be. 🙂 I finally switched to using terms like “multi-author project” in the book to make it clear the concepts could apply to different types of projects.

Some people use “bundle” to apply to any collection of stories or books that are packaged together for sale. I’ve found that while this makes logical sense, it tends to confuse people, so I use “bundle” to refer specifically to collections of ebooks that are created using a bundling website. These sites handle splitting royalties among the participants, and may offer the option to donate a percentage of the proceeds to charity.

Other beasts include anthologies, which are collections of stories packaged together into a single book; magazines, which are similar to anthologies, but may include additional content, like essays; and boxed sets, which are collections of books in either print or ebook format. And there are even more permutations—for example, you could create a bundle of audiobooks, or a bundle of bundles of ebooks.

The three main sites where you can purchase ebook bundles are BundleRabbit, StoryBundle, and Humble Bundle. Bundles created via BundleRabbit may also be available for sale on sites like Amazon. Anything that doesn’t qualify as an ebook bundle can be sold at any retail channel that sells books.

I don’t have a favorite format—I feel that there are situations where each format works well. That said, for collections of short stories, I prefer the anthology format to the bundle format. A bundle of short stories is an ebook that contains other ebooks, so the formatting can vary quite a bit between the items in the collection. An anthology is a single book, so the formatting is consistent across all stories in the collection.
2. I’ve worked with you on a bunch of different projects (and, in fact, I did edits on Bundle Up!), and I know that you’re super organized, to the point where it’s almost a minor superpower. Please gimme a story about how you came to appreciate that about yourself. I’m always interested in how people find their minor superpowers. 🙂

My organizational superpower has always been there, so I can’t really remember a time when it wasn’t present. My mom says I made lists even as a small child. 🙂 What isn’t apparent to most people is that I’m super organized in giant swaths, but will ignore other areas if they’re not as important to me at the moment.

For example, once a month or two I’ll have built up a pile of papers and books and random things that eventually gets so high it starts to block my monitor, or I won’t have any room left to put my tea. At this point I “clean my desk,” which usually involves sorting through some things, and moving the rest to a pile elsewhere in my jam-packed office. But the colorful spreadsheets I use to track the writing and publishing projects I work on are very detailed and structured.

It’s kind of like synesthesia. I associate letters and numbers with colors, and didn’t realize until I was well into adulthood that most people don’t do this type of thing because this seems so normal to me that I rarely even think about it.
3. Your book is featured in the Nano Writing Tools Bundle aimed at writers doing a project for the National Novel Writing Month. How did you get involved with that bundle, and has it been a positive experience?

I’d been planning on writing Bundle Up! for a long time, but kept putting it off partly because I felt I didn’t have enough experience, and partly because the idea of writing a non-fiction book was a little frightening. In the summer of 2018, Mark Leslie Lefebvre interviewed me about bundles, curation, and collaboration on his Stark Reflections podcast. I mentioned writing my book during the interview—I figured that by committing to the project in a public forum I’d put pressure on myself to finally start on the project—and my plan worked! I told Chuck Heintzelman, the founder of BundleRabbit, that I’d finally started working on the manuscript. He mentioned it to Kevin J. Anderson, the curator of the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, and Kevin contacted me and extended an invitation—with the obvious caveat that my book would have to be done.

I was super excited about this opportunity. Not only had I started writing my book, I also had the opportunity to be part of the annual NaNoWriMo bundle! Having a super firm deadline meant I had to buckle down and focus, which I did. I’d probably still be poking at the manuscript if I hadn’t had this opportunity.

In addition to all that, it’s not only been a really fun experience to be a part of this collection, I’m also a fan of the charity we’re working with. The Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit education organization founded by the families of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, gets a portion of the proceeds from the NaNoWriMo bundle.
4. If a writer wanted to get involved in a bundle, what would be the best way to do that? What would make it worth it for an author to organize a bundle of their own?

Networking is by far the best way to get involved in a bundle or any other kind of multi-author project. It’s not the only way, of course. You can submit a story in response to an anthology call, put your ebook up in BundleRabbit’s Marketplace, etc. But if you connect with other authors, they’ll be more likely to invite you to participate in a project.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration if you’re interested in organizing a collection. Most people just decide to do it and jump right in, which is exactly how I ended up curating my first collection a few years ago. 🙂 But I know several authors who organized one collection and then swore they’d never do it again, and there are several main reasons why. There’s a lot of cat herding involved—as the curator, you need to make sure the authors sign the contract, get their stories/ebooks in on time, give you biographies, and so on. You also need to plan on doing a fair amount of promotion, and/or rely on the authors to help out—but not all authors understand how to do this. One of the most common complaints I hear from curators is that they expected the authors to pitch in more on the marketing side.
5. If you had one tip for authors on how to make the impact of the bundles (and anthologies) they’re in more effective, what would it be?

I’m going to cheat and give two tips, since I consider them both important. 🙂

The first is to figure out what you can do—and are willing to do—to promote the collection, and do it! Ideally, think this through ahead of time so that you can schedule time to write promotional posts, put together marketing images, and so on.

The second is to collaborate on promotion. I’ve found collaboration with other authors to be a huge benefit of multi-author collections. Not only can this help promote the collection, by working on marketing with other authors, you’re also promoting each other.
and last but not least, the bonus question:

6. Is there any note that you’d like to leave your readers on? (Hint: the additional promo question.)

Be creative! 🙂

One of the sections in my book is called Think Outside the Boxed Set. It contains examples of less common ways to use story/book collections, like creating a collective of authors who share tasks related to a series of collections. (Examples of this particular approach include the Uncollected Anthology, which I joined in 2018, and Boundary Shock Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine created by Blaze Ward.) There are always more ways of doing things! Don’t allow yourself to be constrained by what you’ve seen others do—give yourself the freedom to think of new ideas, and try them out!

About DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling is a freelance writer, editor, and book designer living in Colorado. She runs Wonderland Press, a micropublisher of curious fiction and non-fiction for iconoclasts.