Interview: “Faery Unexpected” by Deb Logan

The most important week of Claire’s life has arrived—the first day of high school, followed closely by her uber-important fifteenth birthday—and where are her parents? Sunning in the south of France, that’s where! As if dereliction of duty wasn’t enough, they left Claire in the care of her more-than-slightly-dotty grandmother, a woman who believes in fairies and dragons. Gag.

What’s an aspiring teen diva to do when her grandmother insists she wear a toy dragon perched on her shoulder on the first day of school? Ditch the annoying lizard, that’s what. But it seems Gran has unholy powers: the dragon is immovable unless a teacher takes note and orders Claire to remove it. Claire’s dream of making a splash in high school didn’t include being the butt of a standing joke. Can life get any more devastating?

You bet it can! Just wait until Claire discovers the birthday present that will change her life…forever!

Faery Unexpected is available for a limited time in The Young Adult Charity MegaBundle.

Whether you’re looking for a pulse-pounding action in space, a witchy urban fantasy mystery, or a sweeter tale of unicorns and magic, this MegaBundle delivers! This bundle includes 28 books, including award-winning books from NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors. Since money is tight for a lot of people right now, the floor of this bundle at a mere dollar, but if you’re in a position to spend a little more for this great collection, please do.

Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy.

Excerpt

Families are great, but there are times when they stink. I mean, I love my mom and dad, but wouldn’t you think they’d at least have asked me if I wanted to spend a month on the French Riviera with them? Honestly! I could’ve made arrangements to go, even studied while sunning in the south of France. The first few weeks of high school aren’t that important. But the parents refused to listen to reason. Instead, they arranged for Gran — Mom’s decidedly weird mother who never went anywhere without her even weirder toy dragon—to stay with me while Mom and Dad defected to Europe to laze in the sun. I figured by the time I survived the first week, I’d have earned a vacation of my own.

What a rip. I’d been searching for a solution to my high school dilemma, and they’d handed me the answer and then snatched it away, all in the space of a two-minute conversation. Man! My first day at Jefferson High was racing down on me and I still didn’t have a concrete plan for leaving the middle school nerd behind. I didn’t need to be the most popular girl at school, but I definitely wanted to improve my social standing.

In middle school I’d been a dork, and Danielle, the cheerleader-from-hell, teased me mercilessly about my good grades, happy family, and that stupid book report on fairies I’d done in seventh grade. Hello, I’d done my Shakespearean research, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, anyone? But that didn’t matter. She called me ‘Fairy Clairey’ for the rest of middle school. Even got her friends in on it. Made me sound like a complete idiot.

For a whole, shining minute I’d had my answer—before my parents ripped it away by uninviting me on their little European jaunt, but if I closed my eyes I could still picture the beautiful vision: me swaggering through the front doors of Jefferson High three weeks into the first term; my usually pallid skin crisp from a month of sun and sea; my unruly mop of short, curly black hair fashionably styled in the latest Paris do; my outfit straight off a tres chic fashion runway. Danielle would have a cow, and I’d be the reigning queen of the class. I might even have a chance at getting a boyfriend.

But no. Instead I got stuck with crazy Gran and her bizarre stories of dragons and centaurs and the magical adventures of her childhood. Gag!

So here I sat on a beautiful late-August day at Portland International Airport with my parents, waiting for Gran to show up. I stared out the window, watching her jet unload. I leaned my forehead against the glass and listened to my parents’ quiet conversation.

“Relax, Emily,” said Dad, a tall square man sporting thick glasses and a warm smile. “She can’t get lost. Everyone from the concourse channels past this waiting area. We won’t miss her.”

I glanced at my parents, but kept my forehead against the cool glass. Mom was dressed in creased gray wool slacks, ice blue blouse and a gray cardigan embroidered with small birds and vining leaves. She smiled and tucked a strand of dark brown hair behind her ear. “I know, but it’s hard not to worry. I just can’t get over feeling like I should’ve gone to get her. She’s so helpless without Daddy. He did everything for her when he was alive. She never even had to fill the car with gas.”

“Yes, he was old-school to the core,” Dad agreed. “But I think he underestimated your mother. Don’t make the same mistake, Em. Deirdre is tougher than you give her credit for.”

A flash of golden light out of the corner of my eye made me glance back at Gran’s jet. For a moment, I swear I saw something hovering over the plane. More than simple heat haze rising from the tarmac, something shimmered in the air above the airplane, like a window into another world. I blinked, and it disappeared. But the green-blue after image burned behind my eyelids…a castle in the sky.

—from Faery Unexpected by Deb Logan

The Interview

What inspired you to write Faery Unexpected?

My very first published short story, Deirdre’s Dragon, was a children’s story about a little girl who inherits a dragon from her grandmother. It’s only about 800 words, but the idea stuck with me and I knew there was a lot more story to tell. Faery Unexpected and later, Faery Collectible, grew out of Deirdre’s Dragon. I wrote them to answer the questions I had about Deirdre and her dragon: Why do the women in Deirdre’s family need a dragon guardian? and Why that dragon? Who is Roddy, really?

Why do you love writing about dragons?

I adore dragons. Not the mean, snarly, I’d-like-to-eat-you kind of dragons, but the intelligent, loyal, compassionate kind that Anne McCaffrey wrote about in her Dragonriders of Pern series.

My alter-ego, Debbie Mumford, has written a series of four novels and a prequel novella that follows the lives and loves of a family of dragon shifters, so I’ve written a lot of words about dragons… and the people who love them.

In Faery Unexpected, Roddy is a dragon who is cursed to wear the shape of a toy when there’s anyone around other than the young woman he’s assigned to protect. How mortifying for such a majestic creature! But Roddy is also a dragon with a long history of secrets, many of which his young charge discovers during the course of the novel.

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

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

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

Myths and fairy tales are filled with magic. Does that mean that fairies and other creatures of legend are simply more technologically advanced than we are? Are they really aliens? Have they been watching us for centuries, waiting for us to evolve sufficiently to be able to deal with them intelligently? Those thoughts certainly give me a lot of room to play!

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

Right now I’m working on White Buffalo, my third Prentiss Twins novel. Along with Thunderbird and Coyote, White Buffalo is a contemporary fantasy adventure for middle-grade readers… with a Native American theme.

Here’s the premise:
The Prentiss Twins, Justin and Janine, are powerful Native American shamans … and they’re barely even teenagers!

When their grandfather mentions that a pregnant buffalo cow has disappeared from the National Bison Range in their home state of Montana, they immediately suspect that Unktehi, the Spirit of Chaos, is up to mischief again.

But is the warrior demigod to blame for this unexpected buffalo-napping?

Janine and Justin, along with their spirit animals Thunderbird and Coyote, investigate the mysterious disappearance and discover more than they bargained for when the cow’s baby turns out to be a legendary White Buffalo.

White Buffalo is especially fun because it’s a special request from my grandkids. They’ve read Thunderbird and Coyote several times and have been pestering me about “what happens next?” I’m thrilled to be able to tell them a new story!

About Deb

Deb Logan specializes in tales for the young—and the young at heart! Author of the popular Dani Erickson series, Deb loves the unknown, whether it’s the lure of space or earthbound mythology. She writes about demon hunters, thunderbirds, and everyday life on a space station for children, teens, and anyone who enjoys young adult fiction. Her work has been published in multiple volumes of Fiction River, as well as in the 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, Feyland Tales, and other popular anthologies.

Find Deb

Website ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub

Find The Young Adult Charity MegaBundle!

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

Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy.

Grab the bundle today! You’re not only getting a fabulous deal, you’re also helping make the world a better place!

Interview: “Starstruck” by Brenda Hiatt

Nerdy astronomy geek Marsha, M to her few friends, has never been anybody special. Orphaned as an infant and reluctantly raised by an overly-strict “aunt,” she’s not even sure who she is. M’s dream of someday escaping tiny Jewel, Indiana and making her mark in the world seems impossibly distant until hot new quarterback Rigel inexplicably befriends her. As Rigel turns his back on fawning cheerleaders to spend time with M, strange things start to happen: her acne clears up, her eyesight improves to the point she can ditch her thick glasses, and when they touch, sparks fly—literally! When M digs for a reason, she discovers deep secrets that will change her formerly mundane life forever…and expose her to perils she never dreamed of.

Starstruck is available for a limited time in The Young Adult Charity MegaBundle.

Whether you’re looking for a pulse-pounding action in space, a witchy urban fantasy mystery, or a sweeter tale of unicorns and magic, this MegaBundle delivers! This bundle includes 28 books, including award-winning books from NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors. Since money is tight for a lot of people right now, the floor of this bundle at a mere dollar, but if you’re in a position to spend a little more for this great collection, please do.

Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy.

Excerpt

I boarded the bus on the first day of school with a weird sense of anticipation. Even after nine years as the class dork, I couldn’t quite squelch a fizzy little hope that this year would be different.

Maybe this year Jimmy Franklin would finally notice I existed. I was fifteen now and marginally less awkward than I’d been last year as a freshman. Maybe I’d do something wild and daring, like, oh, run for treasurer of the French Club. I might even get elected, since last year they’d had to arm-twist someone into doing it.

The familiar sour-stale school bus smell—like old french fries that had been baking in the Indiana sun all summer, with maybe a whiff of vomit—took some of the fizz out of my mood. It was the smell of a dozen past humiliations. Still, I clung to what I hoped was a confident half-smile as I headed for an empty seat two-thirds of the way back.

“Wow, Marsha, nice blouse.”

It was Trina Squires, of course—my nemesis. Trina was everything I wasn’t: pretty, rich, popular, athletic. And we’d more or less hated each other ever since that bracelet incident back in third grade.

“Get dressed in the dark again?” she continued.

My best friend Bri, who had about fifty times more fashion sense than me, had picked out my outfit—a cute white cap-sleeve blouse dotted with tiny blue stars, and denim capris. I totally trusted Bri’s taste. Not wanting Trina to think I cared what she said, I passed her before glancing down at myself.

Oh. Crap. Nice blouse, yeah—buttoned one button off. How did I not notice that before I left the house? Hitching my tattered green backpack a little higher, I tried to cover the neckline, where it was most obvious.

And tripped over Bobby Jeeter’s foot, which he’d stuck out just for me. I caught myself—barely—before I went sprawling, but that didn’t keep half the bus from laughing.

“You know, most guys gave that up back in fifth grade,” I informed Bobby, grabbing my glasses before they slipped off my nose.

“What can I say?” Bobby shrugged, not the least bit apologetic. “It’s still funny.”

More laughter.

Trying to ignore them all, I pushed my glasses back up, sat down in the empty seat and started rebuttoning my blouse as inconspicuously as possible.

Nope, it didn’t look like this year was going to be any different.

—from Starstruck by Brenda Hiatt

The Interview

What inspired you to write Starstruck?

When I was in third or fourth grade, a girl in my class claimed she was really a Martian princess. In fact, she was ADAMANT about it. No matter how we made fun of her or tried to trick her into admitting she was making it up, she stuck to her story—for weeks at least, though I remember it as much longer. Many years later, after I became a writer, I suddenly wondered, “What if she was telling the truth? What if she really WAS a Martian princess?” That “what if?” eventually became Starstruck.

Why do you think so many people, of all ages, love reading YA?

Probably for the same reason I love writing YA! The teen years are so full of emotional milestones, they make for fabulous stories. There’s something so fun about being transported back to that time of life, when EVERYTHING mattered SO MUCH. Not just the fate of worlds (though of course that’s fun, too!) but whether the cute new boy (or girl) will notice me—and what I’ll do if he/she does! Teen emotions can be much more believably over-the-top than in adult fiction, making YA books particularly engaging both to read and to write.

Did you make up any of the science used in your book, and if so, what and why?

Because I needed the science to be far more advanced than our own, I extrapolated known science into what I thought it might plausibly become in the future. I did my best never to depart TOO far from known science, so that all of my “advancements” would at least seem plausible, given what we know now. One of the big challenges has been staying ahead of our own scientific progress, things are changing so quickly these days! It’s definitely been a fun exercise to take currently-known science into the future without losing believability.

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

I’m nearly done with the first draft of Convergent, the next book in my Starstruck series/world. I always have a lot of fun writing these books, and this one is especially fun because I get to bring together all the main characters from the previous books and give them a group adventure!

About Brenda

Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-five novels (so far), including sweet and spicy historical romance, time travel romance, and young adult science fiction romance. In addition to writing, Brenda is passionate about embracing life to the fullest, to include scuba diving (she has over 60 dives to her credit), Taekwondo (where she’s currently working toward her 4th degree black belt), hiking, traveling…and reading, of course!

Find Brenda

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub

Find The Young Adult Charity MegaBundle!

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

Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy.

Grab the bundle today! You’re not only getting a fabulous deal, you’re also helping make the world a better place!

Interview: “The Sphere of Infinity” by Day Leitao

Alana’s dream is to leave the poverty-stricken, government-controlled planet where she lives with her mother. But that’s impossible when she can barely manage enough to eat. Her big chance comes in a well-paid mission to retrieve a golden sphere. The problem: it’s in the Ghost Ship, a mysterious alien vessel abandoned for millenia. Nobody has ever set foot on it and come out alive. How will Alana manage it?

Meanwhile, Jasper has come to her planet to oversee the government. His real goal? To see the mysterious dragons—if they are still alive.

Destiny brings them together and thrusts the fate of the Samitri Planet and the Human Universe in their hands.

The Sphere of Infinity is available for a limited time in The Young Adult Charity MegaBundle.

Whether you’re looking for a pulse-pounding action in space, a witchy urban fantasy mystery, or a sweeter tale of unicorns and magic, this MegaBundle delivers! This bundle includes 28 books, including award-winning books from NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors. Since money is tight for a lot of people right now, the floor of this bundle at a mere dollar, but if you’re in a position to spend a little more for this great collection, please do.

Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy.

Excerpt

“You’re the Black Mouse, right?”

Alana nodded.

The woman chuckled. “Afraid like a mouse. This is not a trap, boy, but an opportunity. My name’s Mara.”

Alana shook the woman’s hand, glad to be called a boy. “Black Mouse.”

“Indeed. And you can fit in tight spaces, right?”

“My specialty.”

Mara looked at Alana up and down. “For your sake, boy”, her ironic tone in that word didn’t go unnoticed, “I hope you’re as good as they say.”

“I haven’t said yes.”

“What does it matter, when I know the answer? Have you ever been in space?”

“No.”

Mara shook her head. “No issues. It’ll be quick. I need something retrieved from a spaceship, a lost spaceship that has been orbiting a planet for millennia.”

Alana felt queasy. “The Ghost Ship?” That was a legendary, humongous, non-human spaceship orbiting C-2, the nearest planet in their solar system. Search teams had been sent there, and legend said nobody had ever returned. It was also called the Death Ship.

“Why that face? It’s just a ship. Like the ones you enter to retrieve little things.”

“I’ve never been in an alien spaceship, madam.” Hopefully she was using the correct title.

“Few people have, have they? Since the treaty of mutual ignoring, we’ve just pretended they don’t exist. Contact was broken. Or at least that’s the official story. But it’s just a ship, girl, a ship with very small passages where few people fit. You’re lucky to be tiny, or else I’d need to try with a child.”

The woman still assumed Alana was going to say yes. No way she’d agree on a suicide mission, and she didn’t care what Selma thought of that. Still, Alana asked, “What’s the pay?”

Mara had a satisfied smile. “Two. Million. Samitri credits. How’s that?”

Alana made an effort not to show how excited she was. She currently made just less than a thousand credits for every standard month. Two million credits would be enough for her to live in comfort for the rest of her life, to escape Samitri, to get her mother the surgery to walk again, and to be free. Freedom!

But Alana had to negotiate. “I won’t be able to do much with Samitri credits. It’s all controlled, you see? I’d rather Universal Credits. Four million.” Her voice had been firm, the way she’d learned to negotiate her prices, even if it usually only meant one or two hundred more Samitri credits.

Mara laughed. “I think I like you. Three million Universal Credits.”

Alana was still trying to hide her excitement. “Fine. But that’s pointless if I don’t get out alive.”

The woman stared at Alana in a serious expression. “That ship has been studied. I have a diagram of its interior. It has a small passage that you can fit through. Nobody else knows about that passage; they enter through a different entrance, one with high security. That’s why they never come back. That said, I’ll come with you. You’ll go directly to the chamber I need. If you can enter, you can get out, right? Nothing to fear.”

Alana had been waiting for so long for an opportunity to break out of her cycle, to leave this planet, to be free. She couldn’t say no to it when it presented itself to her like this. Dangerous, sure—but it was everything she’d always dreamed. She extended her hand. “Deal.”

—from The Sphere of Infinity by Day Leitao

The Interview

What inspired you to write The Sphere of Infinity?

I was going to participate in an anthology with Aladdin retellings, then I had this vision of this mysterious abandoned spaceship with this object inside it. I don’t usually have influences from other works, but in this case I think the concept of an abandoned spaceship came from the Star Wars Legends novel Sith Troopers and from Halo 4.

What are some of your favorite YA books as a reader, and what makes them stand out for you?

I read Brazilian books. What I liked were genuine human interactions and how I could see myself in some of the characters.

Why do you think so many people, of all ages, love reading YA?

First of all, it usually has a cool balance between plot / character development and romance. Usually in most YA novels you have a character coming of age, a romantic plot, and a bigger plot. I find that with other genres they veer more towards romance or plot, and for some reason YA tends to strike the right balance. For me another reason is that I think nobody really grows up, and the coming-of-age themes tend to hit home.

Why do you love writing about dragons?

I love dragons. They are powerful, mysterious, beautiful. I have a Japanese dragon tattoo from my left arm to my right shoulder, so you know how much I love dragons. But I don’t usually write about dragons. I have no freaking idea why there are dragons in this story, but they play an interesting part. I’m guessing maybe I just thought that I needed spaceships and dragons for an Aladdin retelling.

Is there something from a legend, fairy or folk tale, or myth that you haven’t yet used in your writing, but would like to?

I would like to use Afro-Brazilian mythology, but sometimes I’m afraid that it won’t be genuine, since I wasn’t that close to those religions when I lived there. It’s just that the stories are beautiful.

Did you make up any of the science used in your book, and if so, what and why?

I write space fantasy, so the science in it sucks and sometimes makes no sense. That said, I’ve been reading astrophysics books for my son, and it just ruins everything. You know, if you’re around a planet, there’s still gravity. The only reason the space station has “no gravity” is because it’s in orbit, therefore always “falling.” Going faster than light is either impossible or will make you go back in time. And if I start thinking about it too much it gets tricky. But I do try to make things seem feasible and conform to known laws of physics, so that it seems realistic.

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

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing? I just launched a space opera set in the same universe as The Sphere of Infinity, and what I like most about it was that I decided to follow the characters and not try to write something with commercial appeal.

About Day

Born in Brazil, Day now lives in Canada, where she can enjoy snow in April. She loves to create worlds and characters.

Find Day

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub

Find The Young Adult Charity MegaBundle!

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

Half the MegaBundle profits will go to Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization benefiting children’s literacy.

Grab the bundle today! You’re not only getting a fabulous deal, you’re also helping make the world a better place!

Interview: Jamie Ferguson on “Entangled by Midsummer”

Entangled by Midsummer combines faeries, magic, and ambition in a world where bargains are enforced by magic, love—or the semblance thereof—can be created by a spell, and the consequence of failure is deadly.

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

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

Excerpt

Merenna stared out at the ocean and watched the waves roll toward the shore, their never-ending rumble constant and soothing. Giant logs of driftwood lay scattered on the beach, brought inland by the winter storms, and here and there black chunks of basalt jutted out of the sand. Even in mid-June the Oregon coast was fierce and beautiful and wild, and was an unlikely place to find a faery.


Or at least that’s what Merenna hoped, since she very much wanted to not be found. She rested a finger on the sapphire pendant she always wore, a gift from her grandmother many years ago.


It was around three in the afternoon and the restaurant didn’t open until five, so she and Cù had the patio to themselves. A few tiny clouds dotted the summer sky, and a pair of seagulls flew overhead, cawing to one another. The lemon geraniums in the big clay pots scattered around the tables filled the afternoon with their sweet fragrance, and a steady stream of bees buzzed to and fro as they harvested pollen from the flowers.


Merenna tucked a stray lock of hair back under her straw sun hat, leaned back in her chair, and squinted at the horizon. The other day she’d walked barefoot along the beach, and the water had been so icy it had taken her breath away.


She shifted her weight and accidentally kicked the leg of the cedar table. The umbrella wobbled but stayed upright, which was a relief. It had taken her forever to figure out how to open it. There were so many, many things to learn here in the Land of Men. She’d been here for almost two months, and was finally beginning to feel comfortable among humankind, but there was always something new to learn.


Cù glanced up at her from his spot in the shade underneath the table. His face looked as if someone had run a wide, white paintbrush across his black fur, starting on his left ear and continuing across his muzzle. The skin around the eye on the white side of his face was black as night, as if someone had outlined his eye with kohl. Five years ago he’d shown up at her door one morning, a happy little puppy with a coat of black-and-white fuzz. She didn’t know where he’d come from, nor why, but since the moment she saw him look up at her, his white-tipped tail wagging, they’d been inseparable.


Merenna reached down and rubbed the top of Cù’s head, his fur soft against her skin. His tail thumped briefly, the long hairs on the tip moving as gently as feathers ruffled by a soft breeze.


It felt strange to spend so much time away from her people, and it would feel especially strange to not be among them to celebrate the summer solstice, which was only a few days away. Merenna could feel its presence, almost as though the solstice were a living entity prowling about just out of sight. This year she’d celebrate Midsummer on her own. All the years of parties and feasts and dancing, courtship and gossip, festivals and rituals, were now locked securely in the past.


She could always go back, of course.


If she chose to.


Merenna settled herself firmly into her chair and adjusted her straw hat.

—from Entangled by Midsummer by Jamie Ferguson

The Interview

You’re writing about the fae. What is it about the fae that draws you in to tell stories about them?

The faeries I write about are from a land that’s mystical, magical, and very, very old. I love creating tales about people and worlds that are similar to ours in many ways, but which also contain magic, wonders—and dangers—different from anything we face in our world, and which are often mysterious and sometimes (to us humans, at least) inexplicable. I like creating worlds and characters that feel vivid, magical, and real. I love thinking about what it would be like to be one of the fae, growing up and living in a world so similar to ours, and yet so different.

What would it be like to live in a world where unicorns, kelpies, and mermaids were real? Where you knew if you walked through a forest you might come across a satyr, or a dryad, or some other magical creature that you had never heard of before? What if naiads lived in every pond, lake, and river? Imagine being able to traverse great distances—or even walk between worlds—by following a pathway (a straight track)!

Writing about this type of world is really fun because there’s always something new, exciting, magical—and often unexpected!—around every corner.

In general, you seem drawn to mythology in a very practical way. Your characters, even the ones who don’t know anything about magic, seem to take magic—or whatever other strange rules occur in your settings—in stride. Why is that?

I’m generally a pragmatist. When something odd happens in my life I might have a moment of shock, panic, or whatever, and then think: okay…now what? So I write characters who, when faced with unexpected magical events, deal with them in this way.

This is usually a good approach in my real life, but it’s entirely possible that if I myself were faced with a strange and magical situation like those I put my characters into, I might not be quite as calm and practical. 🙂

What do you feel like the heart of your book is? Romance? Adventure? Mystery?

The story has elements of romance, adventure, and mystery, but at least to me it doesn’t feel like any of those are the “heart.” I feel like the heart of the book is about doing what matters—which is obviously not a genre 🙂 but that’s what feels like the right answer here.

Who’s your most favoritest character in Entangled by Midsummer? Who’s your least? Is anyone based on a real person (that you’re willing to reveal!)?

My favoritest character is Cù, the faery dog, of course! 🙂 I wrote the first part of this novel at a writing workshop on the Oregon coast in 2012. (The assignment was to write a short story, but as often happens to me in these workshops, I wrote the first chapter of a novel. Oops.) Initially Cù was a little different, more like the black dogs of folklore from the British Isles. Less than a year later we adopted our border collie Jasper, and mysteriously Cù’s appearance changed until he looked an awful lot like Jasper…fluffy, cute, black and white, and interested in chasing squirrels Cù is the only character based on someone real.

My other favorite character is Laran. Up until I wrote his first scene, I’d struggled with creating villains who were “bad” but also felt genuine and real. Laran’s character was so easy and fun to write that he made me think about my villains differently. My “bad guys” usually end up as mostly bad, not truly evil. Writing Laran made me realize that instead of trying to force them to fit into a mold, I should embrace their complexity.

I don’t seem to have a least favorite character. Each one of them feels like they’re important and play an important part in the story, so it’s hard to think of a least favorite. It’s more that some play smaller or larger parts.

What are your plans for other stories set in this world? Will they be about the same characters?

I have grand plans for this world! Although I should actually say “this universe,” as in Entangled by Midsummer there are multiple worlds that are accessible by the straight tracks (paths) that run between them. My immediate goal is to continue to write short stories in this universe, partly to work out some of the background, and partly because I’ve really enjoyed the short stories I’ve written in this universe so far. I have a series of 4-5 books planned, and am about a third of the way through the first book. There’s also another story about the Lady of Winter, who Laran mentions at one point, that I think will be a standalone novella.

The only one of my short stories (so far) that includes any of the same characters is “The Faery’s Choice,” which is in the anthology The Faerie Summer. A much younger version of Táinar, one of Laran’s liegemen in Entangled by Midsummer, appears in this story. Some of the characters in the planned 4-5 book series have already appeared in a few short stories. Including the same characters in multiple stories is a great way to tie all the stories together, plus it’s fun to explore some of the characters in more detail.

If you could take a research trip anywhere in the world (no, you can’t go to Faerie) for this series, where would you go next?

Ireland and Scotland. I don’t have anywhere specific in mind, but I’m sure there are many places in both countries that would be wonderful places to do research. I’d like to visit henges, forts, and temples, and see whatever is left of the buildings people built thousands of years ago. I’d like to stand on the land next to the sea, smell the salt air, and imagine what it would have felt like to live in a time when people believed in the Tuatha Dé Danann, or the Aos Sí.

What’s the best piece of research you did for this book that you didn’t have a chance to use?

I learned a lot about the black dogs of folklore from the British Isles. Most of what I learned turned out to not be a good fit for Cù’s character, but I’m using some of this research for a dog in one of the novels in the 4-5 book series. We’ll see what this ends up being in the final draft, but the current version incorporates the idea that these dogs are associated with crossroads and ancient pathways.

What books did you read as a young adult or adult that you feel you drew most on for Entangled by Midsummer?

I’ve actually been thinking about this recently, trying to remember what my main influences were so that I can go back and reread them. The list I’ve come up with so far includes Tom Deitz’ David Sullivan series and Julian May’s Saga of Pliocene Exile. I was also influenced by a number of books about King Arthur and Merlin that had magical/mystical elements, like The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy. I’m sure there are a lot of other books I’m forgetting. I’m putting together a list of books that I know and/or suspect influenced me, and am adding them to a shelf on Goodreads.

What else do you have coming out recently, or soon?

My short story “Goblin Road Trip” just came out in the second issue of Amazing Monster Tales. I co-edit this series, but I still need to get my stories past my co-editor (DeAnna Knippling, who is also my interviewer!). 🙂 Another story of mine, “A Different Turn,” came out recently in Crossroads Hotel, the 20th issue of the Uncollected Anthology.

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

I’m currently focusing on two projects. The first is a historical fantasy which starts in Pompeii in—surprise!—A.D. 79…right before Vesuvius erupted. I don’t yet know if this is a novel or a series…but I do know that it is really, really fun to write! This is one of those stories that practically writes itself. I’ve got the whole thing worked out in my head, and now just need time to type it up. My plan is to finish the first draft over the next few weeks, then let it sit for a while so I can do some historical research, and make sure I’ve got the facts as accurate as I can make them.

The other project is a cozy witch series set in Colorado. Like Entangled by Midsummer, this idea came out of a short story assignment at a writing workshop…and again, what I wrote turned out to be the first chapter in a novel. I’m not doing any more writing on this project until I finish the first draft of the historical fantasy, but I am allowing myself to make notes. I now have a lot of notes! 🙂 This project is fun in part because it’s set in Boulder, the town I live in, and I’m really enjoying incorporating elements of places I know.

About Jamie

Jamie focuses on getting into the minds and hearts of her characters, whether she’s writing about a saloon girl in the American West, a man who discovers the barista he’s in love with is a naiad, or a ghost who haunts the house she was killed in—even though that house no longer exists. Jamie lives in Colorado, and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep.

Find Jamie

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

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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

Interview: Midwinter Fae authors – Part 4

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

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

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

The Interview

Part 4 of the Midwinter Fae author interview includes:

  • Jamie Ferguson, author of “The Kiss of the Horned God”
  • Marcelle Dubé, author of “Midwinter Run”
  • Dayle A. Dermatis, author of “The Madness of Survival”

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

Jamie Ferguson
I love reading stories that incorporate elements from mythology, legends, and folklore…so I enjoy writing the kinds of stories I want to read. 🙂 It’s really fun to take something from mythology, or a traditional fairy tale, and put my own twist on it.

Marcelle Dubé
I like incorporating stories from myth, legend or folklore into my own French-Canadian traditions, just to see what will happen. I especially like exploring how “modern” humans would react if they encountered these creatures from myth. I love hearing the echoes of these stories rolling down the centuries.

Dayle A. Dermatis
Mythology, legends, and folklore are based on fundamental truths, stories, and energy from time immemorial. We each interpret them in different ways, but the fact that the same stories appear in wildly different cultures at roughly the same time, when those people had no known contact with one another, has to give you pause and make you think.

As a writer, I walk the line between telling lies/making stuff up and searching for the universal truths and connections between people. Exploring myths and legends allows me to do both.

What do you find most interesting about the mythology/folklore associated with Midwinter?

Jamie Ferguson
We lived in West Germany and the Netherlands when I was a kid, and would go to Christmas markets (Christkindlmärkte) every year. It felt like a magical time, walking around in the cold, with lights sparkling, decorations hanging, and enjoying festive food and drink while admiring all of the fun and beautiful things for sale. Our family also incorporated some of the traditions of where we lived, like that of leaving out our shoes the evening of December 5th for Saint Nicholas (aka our parents) to put little gifts in.

Midwinter feels like a magical time to me, which I think is mostly because of the festive, sparkling, exciting feeling I always had at this time of year when I was growing up. It’s probably also because in northern Europe, our days were short. My sisters and I would wait for the school bus in the dark and come home in the dark, so the increase in the amount of daylight was a very tangible thing for us.

Midwinter is a turning point, where the days begin to lengthen. Imagine what it must have been like for the ancients to celebrate the arrival of the winter solstice at one of the henges or monuments which were built to align with the solar cycle. That yearly reminder that winter would (eventually) end, and that you wouldn’t run out of food or fuel, must have been exciting—and comforting.

To me, the most interesting parts of the mythology around Midwinter deal with the risk that winter might not end after all—the battle between the Holly and Oak kings, the robin and the wren, the Horned God dying and then being reborn at Midwinter. We now know that winter will always end, but imagine how mystical and magical this must have seemed to people thousands of years ago?

Marcelle Dubé
The idea of a time of year where the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead thins is fascinating. I really like the idea of the two worlds crossing over. Of the various stories that come to us from folklore and mythology, I really like the one about the Wild Hunt, in which a spectral leader rides at the head of a host of faerie, or spirits, or men mounted on wild horses, accompanied by black hounds with red, rolling eyes, to the sound of howling, pounding hooves and fierce winds.

It’s thrilling. Terrifying. But wouldn’t you want to see it for yourself?

Nobody’s sure what they’re chasing—is it a beast? A man? The spirits of the dead? Does it matter? All we know is to hide when we hear them coming—hide and hope they don’t come after us.

So, knowing all this, what kind of woman would deliberately taunt the Wild Hunt into helping her? A desperate one.

Dayle A. Dermatis
Turning of the Wheel, from dark to light. We’ve lost the focus on seasons, and are expected to work the same jobs no matter what. But autumn will always be harvest, and winter will always be about family, hearth, and home, and the time to work on indoor projects.

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

Jamie Ferguson
There are two main areas that I really enjoy incorporating in my writing: Celtic mythology and folklore, and what I’ll loosely refer to as Mediterranean geography and mythology.

I’ve loved Celtic mythology since I was a kid, and still love reading stories that include elements of it, so it’s not surprising that I also enjoy incorporating this in my own writing. The more research I’ve done on Celtic mythology and folklore for my own stories, the more I realize how many interesting variants there are that I either don’t know much about, or never heard of before. For example, Cù, the faery dog in my novel Entangled by Midsummer, is very loosely based off the mythological Cù-sìth, which I vaguely remembered from different stories I’d read over the years. In researching Cù-sìth for my story I came across the folklore of the black dog, and after one look at that Wikipedia entry I realized just how many different tales and legends there are, and how much they can vary from place to place. I now feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, and have lots more to learn about Celtic mythology—and a lot more stories to write!

I also enjoy writing stories set in the ancient Mediterranean. I’ve written one short story set on the Aeolian Islands around 1500 BC, and am currently working on a novel that begins in Pompeii—in A.D. 79, of course, right before Vesuvius erupted. 🙂 The appeal includes the geography, climate, food, etc. of the Mediterranean as well as some of the mythology. I also find some of the cultural aspects and the way civilization progressed and changed over time to be really interesting. I’ve also found it fun to write about people who left little or no written records.

Marcelle Dubé
I love the Scandinavian countries and their myths, in particular, myths about trolls. The harshness of the climate juxtaposed against the beauty of the landscape. The hardiness of the inhabitants. The risk of encountering a troll on a lonely path. I imported trolls from Norway to North America in “Troll Country,” in which our intrepid heroine must face the troll who murdered her father when she was a child.

Norway, Sweden, even Iceland… they are similar to Northern Canada, where I live. I guess it’s not much of a stretch to imagine how creatures from the Old World would fare in the New World.

Dayle A. Dermatis
I’ve been interested (okay, obsessed) with Wales since I was a wee lass. The Taran Wanderer series, the Welsh-based books in The Dark is Rising sequence, and possibly others I’ve forgotten, sparked my desire for more. I studied in Chester, England, in college, and visited north Wales; and then I had the opportunity to live in south Wales for four years.

I find all of the British Isles magical in many ways, so that area ends up in my writing quite a bit!

Is there something from a legend, fairy or folk tale, or myth that you haven’t yet used in your writing, but would like to?

Jamie Ferguson
Yes—it’s a long, long list. 🙂

One area I’m really interested in researching and using in my writing is Slovakia. All of my great-grandparents on my mother’s side emigrated from eastern Slovakia in the early 1900s, and not much of the history or folklore made it to my generation. I’d like to learn more, and incorporate this in a story or two at some point.

Marcelle Dubé
There’s an old French-Canadian folk tale called La Chasse-galerie, or The Flying Canoe in English. Some say it’s actually a variation on the The Wild Hunt. The French-Canadian version features a few lumberjacks stuck in camp on New Year’s Eve. They know that back home, there is feasting and dancing, and they miss their loved ones.

They decide to make a pact with the devil to get them home for the night. No slouch, the devil agrees. He produces a magical canoe that will fly them the hundred miles home in no time at all. They must give over their crucifixes and crosses and swear not to speak the name of God on the journey or touch any cross on the church steeples they pass, or they will forfeit their souls.

There are so many ways this can go wrong. But it has French-Canadian lumberjacks, the devil and the risk of losing your immortal soul… that’s hard to resist…

Dayle A. Dermatis
I like taking different culture’s tales and comparing them. I have a note in my idea file about African bug gods and “Beauty and the Beast,” although I don’t yet know where it’s going, exactly.

Another is Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” All of his stories are uncomfortably religious for me, but the fact that the Snow Queen has snowflake bees makes this tale a story I want to explore in a deeper level.

Question for Jamie Ferguson:
In your stories, you play around a lot with the idea that there are opposing forces or opposing characters that represent opposing forces at work in ways that drag other people’s lives around with them. Where do you think that idea comes from? Here, the “opponents,” although not necessarily enemies, are pretty clear cut, but you have other stories where the opposition is much more subtle, and the “defeat” of one force by the other is more of a rebalancing. Do tell!

It’s funny how obvious this kind of thing is after a story is written, but it’s not at all obvious during the actual writing. 🙂 Years ago I realized there is a general theme that consistently pops up in my writing: my characters are confronted with a situation where they can choose to do the right thing—or not. But I also add in complications so it’s not simple. For example, if you knew with complete certainty that helping someone was the right thing to do, would you choose to help them if success meant you yourself would be completely and utterly alone for all eternity? My theory is that this type of thing shows up over and over in my stories because I find the concept of choice so intriguing—and so important.

I hadn’t thought about this as opposing forces, but that’s a good way to put it. In “The Kiss of the Horned God” the “opponents” are representations of summer and winter, and “defeat” is a temporary thing as the battle between the two occurs every Midwinter and Midsummer. In other stories I’ve written it’s more clearly about good versus evil, or right versus wrong, to either a lesser or greater degree depending on the tale I’m telling.

I’ve accepted that this type of thing is going to show up in my writing whether or not I plan it. 🙂

Question for Jamie Ferguson:
In this story, you imply that this isn’t the first time the events of the story have played out. Did you have any other characters in mind for the previous times that these two powerful forces met?

“The Kiss of the Horned God” is set at Midwinter, where there’s a conflict between winter and summer, holly and oak, darkness and light. I didn’t think through the specifics of what might have happened in this world in previous Midwinters, but I did set up this story so that something different happens every year. I also implied that something similar happens every Midsummer…so I’ll just have to write another story set in this world to find out more myself!

Question for Marcelle Dubé:

I already have another story in this world.

In “Midwinter Run” Annalise mentions the time her parents went to Montreal to see the opening of the Great Victoria Bridge. The building of the bridge was crucial to the Fey, who had been trapped on the island of Montreal since they were first tricked into coming there. To say much more about how the Fey came to Canada would spoil too much, but I do tell their story in “Skywalkers.”

Question for Dayle A. Dermatis:
In “The Madness of Survival,” Eva was taken by the Fae when she was a child. Now grown, Eva, and others like her who escaped from Faerie, work to keep other human children from being stolen. What inspired you to not only incorporate motorcycles into this story, but to also include hints that perhaps there’s a little more to the motorcycles than it might appear?

The first niggle of an idea came from the fact that there are Hell’s Angels groups that accompany abused children to their hearings and make a presence in the courtroom. The child is afraid of her abuser, but can look at these burly, confident men to protect them from their abusers and give her the strength to confront them. I love the idea of the “bad” Hell’s Angels doing such kind work.

I think the idea of these broken people who’ve been kidnapped into Faerie and then booted out, and nobody believes them, and they band together, is really compelling. They were screwed up, and yet they can rise above that enough to save other children from the same fate.

My husband and I have traveled a good chunk of the world on a motorcycle. Mercedes Lackey played with the idea of bespelled motorcycles in two of her series, an idea I’ve always loved. That’s where I got the Magical Motorcycle theme for Uncollected Anthology, where this story first appeared.

As for the motorcycles in my story, could they be bespelled fae creatures that accompanied the human survivors when they came home? Maybe…

Find the authors!

Jamie Ferguson

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

Marcelle Dubé

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

Dayle A. Dermatis

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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

Interview: DeAnna Knippling on “One Dark Summer Night”

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

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

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

Excerpt

They walked up to the bags of books. Della Rae picked up one bag, and the new guy picked up the other. Merc played out a length of shoelace, about two feet worth. The three of them walked along the broken road like they were in the Wizard of Oz.

Missing a fourth, Della Rae thought. I’m Dorothy, that’s the Cowardly Lion, Merc’s the witch…

But that wasn’t right, either. She squeezed the guy’s hand. I still don’t even know his name.

“Craig Miller, Jr.,” he said. As if he were reading her mind.

“Your name?”

“Yes, ma’am. And you are?”

It was a pleasant low voice with a Midwestern accent, more or less like Merc’s.

“I’m Della Rae Painter.”

“I’m Elizabeth Mercury. Call me Merc. And her name’s Doc, not Della Rae. Remember that.”

Della Rae had hoped she had forgotten.

The sun was setting behind them; the sides of the road, still thick with mist, were now filling up with shadows. The oranges were turning to reds, then deep purples.

The further they walked, the crazier it seemed. Her legs were tired, her mouth dry as a bone. The sides of her lips stuck together. She was drying out.

“Where was that?” she asked.

Merc said, “The bridge to fairy.”

Della Rae closed her eyes and looked back and forth under the lids, trying to ease the soreness underneath them. It wasn’t just dry out here, it was dusty, too. “The what?”

“I’ll tell you at Betty’s,” Merc said. “This town. About the most normal place you could ever be, right? But it’s not. There’s a way to get from here to the other side—to a different dimension, more or less. But the bridge only opens from the other side. At least as far as anyone has ever figured out.

“You don’t want to walk off the end it when it’s broken in half, either. Trust me about that.”

—from One Dark Summer Night by DeAnna Knippling

The Interview

One Dark Summer Night is the first book in your series A Fairy’s Tale, which is a collection of stories about the fae who came from another dimension to work on engineering the perfect changeling. How did you come up with the premise for this world?

A short story was due and it got out of control…?

So I was hankering to write something dark that involved the fae, and I knew I needed to come up with a series concept that I could live with (I hadn’t written an adult series before at that point). Once I got past the emergency freakout point of having the short story explode into a novel, I started expanding the world and the characters in it.

But the beginning came out of “OH CRAP NOW WHAT?” and I turned toward books that I loved for ideas. One of my favorites is Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, which is a book about the legend Tam Lin, only set in a college in the ’80s. So I went, “I’m going to raid my past for my own college book with fairies,” and it kind of grew from there. A lot of the characters are people I knew back then.

Why did you decide to open each scene in all of the tales in this series with a quote from Shakespeare?

As an English major, I somehow ended up avoiding most of the other English majors like the plague. They were Raymond Carvers in spirit, and I was a Kate Bush. I gravitated toward the theater department, which was awesome, and had a theater teacher and director who loved Shakespeare so much that he got married on Shakespeare’s birth/death day, April 23. I went to this magnificent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream one year and never recovered. It was just part of the culture.

What do you find intriguing about the mythology of the fae?

Okay, so…I love the way that they’re really dead people. Like, their sites are really the old sites of prehistoric Britons, and some of the sites are burial mounds. The name sidhe just means “mounds.” I grew up with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but I really got into them more when I read William Butler Yeats’s Irish Fairy Tales, where it becomes even more obvious that tales of the fae are about disease and death.

What gets me now, decades later, is that the prehistoric folk, the ones who lost against the Celts and other people who swept across Britain, are portrayed as the foreign, the strange, the seductive, the deadly. They lived somewhere else and they were the other. I feel like they get taken for being the “safe” monsters too much of the time and should be able to get their licks in, even if they do get wiped out eventually.

All of the stories (so far!) in this series are set in the Midwestern U.S., as are quite a few of your other stories as well. Why do you set so many stories in this part of the country?

I grew up there and am trying to process my roots. (Which makes it sound like I’m bleaching my hair, doesn’t it?) While I’ve moved around a bit, it was in the same general part of the country, until I moved west to Colorado. I’ve only just recently started putting Colorado into my stories.

You’re a co-editor of Amazing Monster Tales, an anthology series with (obviously) a monster theme. There are some pretty monstrous creatures in your fairy series. What do you enjoy about writing stories with these kinds of characters?

I’m not sure. My very first novel had monsters in it, and the fae, and a whole lot of other supernatural elements. My earliest stories were about myths and monsters. For a long time, I had to be restrained from putting monsters in everything. It probably goes back to something I’m trying to deal with, or at least at first it did. Hm…I write about bullies a lot. I was bullied as a kid, and into adulthood as well, and I regularly had stalkers, like, one new one per year, until I hit middle age.

(Which always made me go, “Why pick me???” I think I only make a third- or fourth-rate stalkee, at best.)

So maybe monsters is just how I dealt with that.

You love Alice in Wonderland so much that you named your publishing company Wonderland Press. 🙂 You’ve written several books with this theme already—two novels in your Alice’s Adventures in Underland series (Wonderland with zombies), and The Clockwork Alice (Wonderland with steampunk). What’s next?

Oh, I wrote a short story about Alice, too, for Penumbra magazine, in 2014. It was a horror story.

I feel like Alice is one of the first characters I read that I really related to, as she gets dragged through a bunch of surreal situations that the other characters all treat as perfectly normal. But I feel like—and I’m kind of doing an internal check here—that I’ve said what I desperately needed to say about that. Content.

Who knows, though?

In addition to writing your own stories, you’re also a ghostwriter! What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned from ghostwriting?

There is no such thing as writer’s block. There is a constellation of reasons writers get stuck, and they have to be treated individually, and not as one uniform disease.

You’ve written stories with many different styles, and have written across genres: fantasy, horror, mystery, middle grade, and more. Is there any type of story that you haven’t written yet, but would like to?

I want to do more romance at some point. I’m thinking about including romance plots as the–sorry, total side note–main plot points for a series of Gothic novels that I’m planning, set in a fictional European spa in the late 1800s, and inspired by the Bohemian Gothic Tarot. There’s an overall plot that isn’t romance, but I’ve been struggling to figure out the plot for the individual books. But if each book revolves around a different romance, that should work out nicely.

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

I’m writing this in early October. By the time this post goes live, I should have just finished a flash fiction challenge for a crime story a day (Crime du Jour) on my website, for my mystery pen name, Diane R. Thompson, and started either a Gothic horror novel set in 1816, which was the year that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, or a SF noir about a near-future detective finally undergoing therapy after having been the victim of a serial killer, although he didn’t quite manage to get killed. I’m running behind, so the projects I had scheduled are backed up.

The fun part about writing these flash fiction things is going from idea to execution to edits to posting in the same day. I have to remind myself that there’s no such thing as writer’s block at least once a day.

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

Website ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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

Interview: Midwinter Fae authors – Part 3

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

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

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

The Interview

Part 3 of the Midwinter Fae author interview includes:

  • Leah Cutter, author of “The Ice Skating Fairy”
  • Leslie Claire Walker, author of “Treasure”
  • Ron Collins, author of “First Rays of New Sun”

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

Leah Cutter
What I most enjoy is taking a well-known story or trope and turning it on its head. I’ve always thought that a lot of those myths and legends were about society looking into a mirror and seeing either the best (or the worst) it could be. I like to make it more of a funhouse mirror. The reflection comes through dark and twisted.

Ron Collins
I’ve written several stories that touch specifically on mythology around the fae, and to be honest I think the reason it’s fun is that it’s difficult to do it well. At least it is for me. I mean, I went through a period when I read a lot of the field that was being p—and in the end, I find that fun.

Part of this is probably that in working at it, I learn a lot—and that, especially as I’ve gotten along as a writer, I’ve taken to push myself into blending genres a bit more often, and that’s both tricky and fun. I like to think that bringing myself into the things I play with means I end up taking fresh looks at things that no one else would, and that’s always fulfilling.

What do you find most interesting about the mythology/folklore associated with Midwinter?

Leah Cutter
I am such a seeker of the light. So I really enjoy the midwinter stories that go from darkness into light. Sure, it may start off in a very dark place, but eventually we get through that tunnel, past the hero’s journey, and back into the warmth and growth of spring.

Leslie Claire Walker
Midwinter is my favorite time of year. I love all things Yule, including folklore about Yule and its twin, Summer Solstice—specifically, the story of the Oak King and the Holly King. I love the idea of our consciousness traveling inward a bit, taking a break from so much outward activity to allow feelings, thoughts, and information to rise from deep within and shape the coming year.

Ron Collins
The Midwinter solstice is a pivotal time, right? I love the idea of the cycle of life that it represents. It’s the time for endings and fresh beginnings—which is a really powerful idea in the end. I like that writers can play so directly with life and death in this setting. That was Something that was firm on my mind when I sat down to write “First Rays of New Sun.”

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

Leah Cutter
I take my myths from all over. I do try to borrow from mythology that not everyone is familiar with. For example, I’ve retold Hungarian myths, as well as Chinese and Siberian. I also love making up my own mythology for my fantasy worlds. Those are also very much based on the location of the people there. I strongly believe the creation myths of a people influence everything about them. I generally start with the creation myths and go from there. However, the creation myths are also always influenced by the area.

Leslie Claire Walker
I love Ireland. I’m fortunate enough to have traveled there several times, and to spend a good part of my days there exploring old sacred sites, from the Hill of Tara to Newgrange to Owenygat (the Cave of the Cats). Most of my understanding of myth and folklore was born of the adventures I had while there.

Ron Collins
Well, going back to your earlier question, the local aspect of mythology is something that makes using it so interesting. Settings change everything. The fae I wrote about in a story set in the modern-day deep south (which I used in an Uncollected Anthology a few years back), and those I wrote about in this story are quite different—as are the godlike paranormals I used in your earlier project, Beneath the Waves bundle.

I don’t really set down to write about mythology of a specific location, so much as once I figure out where I’m writing from, I want to spend time learning about what makes the place magical, and then go from there. I recently published “The Robin Club,” for example, that was set in an alternate-world version of Brooklyn and focused on baseball and sports fandom. I envisioned the magic of that environment as coarse and gritty rather than sleek and sexy—a mythology that comes more from friction than anything else. So, to me it was only natural that the most powerful and supernatural elements of that story were just that.

So, yeah, I’d say my locations drive me to think about the nature of the tale than any particular need of my own to venture into a specific zone.

Is there something from a legend, fairy or folk tale, or myth that you haven’t yet used in your writing, but would like to?

Leah Cutter
Some year, I’m going to write a Cinderella story, mixed and twisted with the myth of the phoenix and rising from the ashes.

Ron Collins
I’m sure there is, but my brain hasn’t let me in on the secret, yet!

Question for Leah Cutter:
Cindy is sidelined with a fractured tibia in “The Ice Skating Fairy,” unable to perform in the midwinter jubilee she’d been looking forward to. The fairy she befriends is dealing with a loss of her own. What did you most enjoy about writing the interaction between these two characters?

I really enjoyed being able to make them a little immature and more teenaged than most of my characters. They don’t know everything though they feel pressured to act as if they do. Being younger characters they tend to say exactly what’s on their mind. They don’t lie yet, not like adults.

Question for Leslie Claire Walker:
Addie pays quick cash for cursed objects in “Treasure.” She does this to keep them safe from their owners, and their owners safe from them. What inspired you to write this story, and do you plan to write any other stories in this very interesting world?

I wrote this story as a kind of exorcism. That’s a heavy answer, right? Sometimes, it’s like that. Every bloodline has secrets, and everyone has regrets, and some people give far more than they receive—or spend their lives trying to redeem past mistakes. So, sometimes I write stories as a way to give the souls of my ancestors some peace, and to let them know they are still loved.

In the Jewish tradition in which I was raised, when someone passes away, we say, “May their memory be for a blessing.” In a reciprocal vein, I feel it’s my joyful obligation to bless their memory as well.

To be clear, there are no characters in Treasure that correspond directly to any of my people—just a sincere wish on my part to shine a little healing light into shadowed corners.

The world I created in Treasure certainly provides a lot of rich territory to explore, so it’s likely that I’ll revisit it in the future—as soon as another tale rises to the surface and demands to be told.

Question for Ron Collins:
“First Rays of New Sun” combines faery mythology with an interesting twist—for the fae wield power over more than just humans. Which of the elements in this story that are based on folklore and mythology are your favorites, and why?

The whole idea of how fae magic works is interesting in itself, isn’t it? What, exactly, is that power? Where does that power come from? It’s religious in its own sense, but carries an paganistic essence of nature rather than the more hierarchical elements of our more modern day views, I suppose.

Like I said earlier, I loved the feeling of endings and beginnings associated with the theme, but I also wanted to play with genre a bit. Once I played with the theme a little, as you note, I began to think about the idea of the allure the fae have on us as human beings–both those inside the story as well as us as readers. The fae are attractive, right? Meaning the concept of multiple worlds alongside our own—which we often think of as science fiction these days, but is obviously as old as the first faeland tales—is interesting, and the existence of immortal creatures of both savage beauty as well as sometimes savage disregard for anyone but themselves is always going to draw interest.

I mean, who doesn’t fall for the beautiful bad boy, right?

So, yeah, there are mechanical elements in “First Rays of New Sun” that I like. The idea of consuming food is a lever used to trap a human, for example, and the basic structure of what a midwinter celebration would look like. They’re all fun. But what I enjoyed most here was leveraging them into a narrator who I found to be fun to inhabit, and who in retrospect I hope readers will be able to relate to in ways that might surprise them.

Find the authors!

Leah Cutter

Website ~ Facebook ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Leslie Claire Walker

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub

Ron Collins

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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

Interview: Sharon Kae Reamer on “Primary Fault”

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

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

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

Excerpt

Leaves of every color littered the forest floor. They smelled like sunlight and summer, and my paws rustled the leaves as I ran through them. My fur felt chilled; a faint, cold breeze whistled between the trees. Unsure of my direction through the dense thicket of trees, I kept on in what I felt was a straight path through this Königsforst. A forest fit for a king.

A bib of white fur covered my breast, and I had reddish coloring on my legs. Red wolves were very rare, almost extinct. But that’s what I was. I shook out my fur. A wooden cat talisman hung from a leather cord around my neck. Through the darkness, light blazed. It seemed far off. I felt immediately drawn, and ran towards it. It resolved, as I got closer, into a bonfire. Fire conjured a feeling of danger, but the human in me imagined warmth and companionship there. I quickened my pace.

A shadow rose in front of me, darker than dark, and blotted my view of the fire. Whatever it was moved towards me. I stopped. A bear the size of a small tree ambled closer. I did not feel scared. I started to go around, but it growled once, halting me. I tilted my head, hoping to get a sense of its purpose, but it remained standing where it was, continuing to block my progress.

Leaves rustled behind me. I turned as a graceful wildcat approached on large, thick paws. A lynx, I recognized, as it stopped a short distance away and sat on its haunches. It was larger than me by half with tufted ears edged in black and a short, bushy tail, also tipped in black. Its rich golden coat was spotted with dark brown. It watched me, curiosity showing in its consideration.

A second cat padded up and sat next to it. I recognized it as my talisman, now animated. It was not a tame house cat as I had first thought, but a thoroughly wild relation. Its markings were similar to those of a tabby, but it was larger, and had a bushy, ringed tail that it wrapped around its paws.

To my astonishment, the talisman cat spoke to me. “You should not go to the fire.” Its voice had a rich, masculine timbre.

— from Primary Fault by Sharon Kae Reamer

The Interview

Primary Fault is the first book in your Schattenreich series. What inspired you to tie romance, mythology, suspense, seismology, and the netherworld together?

Pure wish fulfillment. I wanted earthquakes. And I wanted druids. And, because it’s how I roll, there needed to be romance. I had the idea that my druids, who don’t think of themselves as druids, would be highly agnostic about the deities they served.

You’ve pulled a number of elements of Celtic mythology into this series. Which were the most fun to write about?

All of it. The history of the continental Celts, the speculation about who and what the druids were (or if they even existed), and imagining what their gods were like. When I first started the series, I had one or two books on the Celts and their religion on my shelf. Now I have two whole shelves on the Celts alone and another couple of shelves on fairy tales and other ancient religions.

The Sundered Veil is a follow-on series to your Schattenreich series. How do these two series relate to each other?

If I tell you a lot of details, it would be a bit of a spoiler for the first series. I will say that there are five new characters who now not only have to explore the Schattenreich, they have to save it. It’s set in the very-near future and so will have some interesting things to explore.

Your work as both a seismologist and archeoseismologist wound its way into Primary Fault, as well as into a number of your other stories. What do you enjoy about this area of science?

I love science. I’ve had a subscription to Scientific American since 1988 or so and try to read every issue, pretty much back to front (my favorite column, Anti-Gravity by Steve Mirsky and the book reviews are in the back).

Seismology was a choice I made back when I was trying to figure out what kind of geophysicist I wanted to be. It’s something that affects everyone, whether it’s an earthquake or a volcanic tremor or even a loud truck shaking the glasses in the cabinet when it trundles by. So there’s always a way to work it into a story.

My main character, Caitlin Schwarzbach, is a seismologist, and she approaches things intuitively but always trying to figure out what the ‘data’, be it a murder or some kind of phenomenon from the Schattenreich, is trying to tell her. That’s so me.

You grew up in Texas, and now live in Cologne (Köln), Germany. Germany features prominently in your Schattenreich series. What do you enjoy about weaving real places into your stories, and what is it about Germany in particular that you like as a setting?

Setting is so important to ground stories, and I try to write about places I’ve been because it’s really hard to do a setting right when you haven’t been there and seen it, smelled it, or tasted the food (I’ve not been to the Schattenreich, but it’s a very real place to me). The light, the people, it’s all connected, and I love being able to pull all that out of my memory and put it in a story.

You weave myths and legends into many of your stories, and pull in historical elements as well—as in your short story “Alexander’s Gate,” which appears in the Monster Road Trip anthology. Do you have a favorite historical period that you like to incorporate into your writing?

The late Iron Age is one of my favorites as well as the Bronze Age, which I’m just now exploring in my non-fiction reading—I have an immortal sphinx novelette series where I’ll be doing a story from that period as well as a romance story. Also the Middle Ages because Cologne, near where I live, and much of western Europe, is still so steeped in it. It’s easy to get back to the Middle Ages if you live in Europe. I’m also playing with ideas for an alternate-history ‘Victorian’ mystery set (mainly) in Germany.

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

Putting the finishing touches on The Sundered Veil is my highest priority right now. And hugely fun to see that the Schattenreich has taken me to places I never imagined.

Alone, the short stories/novelettes that have sprung from it. The Red Stilettos, Night Shepherd, and A Recipe for Disaster have been published so far. Once Upon a Wild Hunt in America is finished as well as How I Got my Raven Prince Back. Three more are in various stages of being written/edited. They have all been amazingly fun to write as ways to explore character and the world I’ve created.

Five books for the new series are planned, each featuring one of the major characters.

And then I’m finishing up the first novel in my first science fiction series (Daughters of Earth) that I’ve had on hold forever. But it needs to get out there. The novel was a huge pain at first because I thought I wanted to write hard SF. But then, I let myself revert to type and just wrote the story that wanted to come out and ignored all the critical voices trying to tell me what it needed to be.

Then it was fun again. Especially designing the plate tectonics for three planets in a far-flung solar system. I’ve already got a couple of shorts that are related to the series bubbling around on the back burner in my subconscious.

It’s a colonization novel with…wait for it…mythology infused with science and mystery and romance. Oh, and earthquakes.

About Sharon

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

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

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

And, of course, she has cats.

Find Sharon

Website ~ Twitter ~ Pinterest ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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

Interview: Alethea Kontis on “Tales of Arilland”

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

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

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

Excerpt

“I will listen,” said the frog. “Read me your story, the story that you have just written there, and I will listen.”

It was completely absurd. Absurd that Sunday was somewhere in the middle of the Wood talking to a frog who wanted her to make him what she desired most in the world: a captive audience to her words. It was so absurd, in fact, that she started reading from the top of the page in her book without another thought.

“’My name is Sunday Woodcutter—’”

“Grumble,” croaked the frog.

“If you’re going to grumble through the whole thing, why did you ask me to read it in the first place?”

“You said your name was Sunday Woodcutter,” said the frog, “and I thought it only fitting to introduce myself in kind. My name is Grumble.”

“Oh.” Her face felt hot. Sunday wondered briefly if frogs could tell that a human was blushing, or if they were one of the many other colorblind denizens of the forest. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“Thank you,” said Grumble. “Please, carry on with your story.”

—from “Sunday” in Tales of Arilland by Alethea Kontis

The Interview

One of the stories in this collection is “Sunday,” a novelette that inspired your award-winning novel Enchanted. What made you decide to expand on this story?

I knew before even writing “Sunday” that it was bigger than a short story. (The minute the character of Aunt Joy and her nameday gifts popped into my head.) I made a promise to myself that I would only write the “abridged version” if I promised to go back and write the novel. (The novel took me five years…but I did it!)

You write stories that are magical and beautiful, and are sometimes dark and haunting. What do you enjoy about writing darker stories?

I believe in hope, above all things. But—just like science tells us—light shines brightest in the darkest night. We all have varying shades of dysfunctional lives. But that doesn’t mean we should ever give up hope, no matter how sorely we are tempted.

“Sweetheart Come,” in Tales of Arilland, is a story about werewolves and love. What inspired you to write this story?

It was actually inspired by the Nick Cave song of the same name. My little sister suggested it—I had never heard it before—and I was instantly enchanted by the recurring violin solo. “Today’s the time for courage, babe—tomorrow can be for forgiving.”

You review books for NPR (National Public Radio)! What have you learned from doing this?

There came a time when I realized that I had been writing (and worrying about my career) so much that I wasn’t reading anymore. That thought devastated me. When I first queried the review editor at NPR, she asked what genre I would prefer. I instantly chose contemporary YA romance because 1.) I do not know a lot of authors in this genre so there would be few conflicts of interest and 2.) the books would bring me joy. Boy, was I right about #2. I had no idea how much! It’s been a year now, and I am thankful for this column every day.

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?

You know what I’ve found? The more fairy tales I read, the more I realize that most of them didn’t really teach anything. (I cover a lot of these in my “Fairy Tale Rants” on YouTube.) There are some STRANGE fairy tales, about cats deceiving mice and disembodied heads falling down chimneys and pins and needles getting too drunk to drive home (there are multiple stories about inebriated pins and needles!). Popular household stories over the years—and even now, over the internet–have always been kind of strange. Back then, they generally gave the impression that clever people would be rewarded over lazy ones, and the more generous the soul, the more generous the reward. Those kinds of stories are still told and touted…but I suspect the general public pays them about as much attention now as they did Way Back When.

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

What I do like: Fairy tales were my first love. I believe they instilled within me a deep and abiding love for all genre fiction. There is adventure, mystery, romance, fantasy, horror…all of it…and I think at this point I’ve written short stories set in every single one!

What I don’t like: I personally despise the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale. Hate it with the passion of 1000 fiery suns. Always have. Couldn’t tell you why. Of course, I ended up being required to write a retelling…so I set it in Arilland and cast Jack Woodcutter as the hero of the piece. I still don’t care for Red Riding Hood, but “Hero Worship” is now one of my favorite stories to read aloud to audiences!

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

I am currently working on a middle grade manuscript that is sort of…Stranger Things meets The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It’s 100% inspired by all my fabulous real-life storm chasing adventures and SO MUCH FUN TO WRITE!

About Alethea

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a voice actress, and a force of nature. She is responsible for creating the epic fairytale fantasy realm of Arilland, and dabbling in a myriad of other worlds beyond. Her award-winning writing has been published for multiple age groups across all genres. She is the host of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” and Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con. Alethea has narrated for ACX, IGMS, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders, Shimmer, Apex Magazine and Clarkesworld Magazine, and she contributes regular YA book reviews to NPR.

Alethea’s YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won both the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award and Garden State Teen Book Award. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013 and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award. Tales of Arilland, a short story collection set in the same fairy tale world, won a second Gelett Burgess Award in 2015. The second book in The Trix Adventures, Trix and the Faerie Queen, was a finalist for the Dragon Award in 2016. Alethea was nominated for the Dragon Award again in 2018, for her YA paranormal rom-com When Tinker Met Bell. In 2019, the third in her Harmswood Academy trilogy–Besphinxed–was nominated for a Scribe Award by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

Princess Alethea was given the honor of speaking about fairy tales at the Library of Congress in 2013. In 2015, she gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She also enjoys speaking at schools and festivals all over the US. (If forced to choose between all these things, she says middle schools are her favorite!)

Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives on the Space Coast of Florida. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.

Find Alethea

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

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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

Interview: Midwinter Fae authors – Part 2

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

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

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

The Interview

Part 2 of the Midwinter Fae author interview includes:

  • Diana Benedict, author of “Summerland’s Paladin”
  • Rebecca M. Senese, author of “Holly vs. Oak”
  • Stefon Mears, author of “A Last Meal for the Holly King”

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

Diana Benedict
Mythology and ancient stories give me this wondrous feeling inside my deepest self. I never got this from the religion I was raised in. The feeling is sacred and I wish I could hold on to it for more than the brief times I feel it. Working with these elements allows me to immerse myself in the wonder I find in them, so I often find myself working with these kinds of stories.

Rebecca M. Senese
I love the clash of different influences coming together to see where they will take me. I wouldn’t just take a myth or legend on its own, I’ll mix it up, either with another myth or twist the interpretation of it. I enjoy following where these surprising twists will take me in my stories.

Stefon Mears
I get to use my degree! Okay, I’m only half-joking there. I do have a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies with a double-emphasis in Ritual and Mythology. But honestly, I got that degree because they were already major fields of interest for me, and I reveled in the excuse to study them formally.

When I was a kid, I did have a few regular children’s books on my bookshelves, but I had even more children’s versions of Greek and Norse myths. And those were my favorites. I must’ve read the story of Thesus a hundred times. Even at school, I found the folklore section of my grade school library (pretty small, but still), and read the whole thing (coincidentally leading to my interest in vampires and werewolves).

Plus, I grew up in a household where both sides told stories. My mom and her mother told the old Irish tales, including some versions that vary a bit from the mainstream interpretations. My father was an ex-navy man, and told some of the old folklore of the sea.

Honestly, I could go on and on about this. But key here is that myths, legends and folklore have always been a part of my life. Elements of them work their way into pretty much everything I write, one way or another. And to have an excuse to explicitly write about mythic, legendary or folkloric figures just makes me smile and gets my fingers moving.

What do you find most interesting about the mythology/folklore associated with Midwinter?

Diana Benedict
There is something really primal about struggling to survive the winter, relying on your crops and animals, that, hopefully, are enough to carry you through to spring, hunkering down as the world shuts down, freezes over, and becomes tinged with desperation.

I was afraid of winter as a child. My father worked construction and was often laid off in the winter. As a voracious reader, I worried that, like the characters I read about, our family would run out of money for heat and food, and we would be reduced to huddling in front of the stove, with empty bellies. It never happened, thank heavens, but I will not eat ham and bean soup to this day.

I also worried about the animals and the tiny birds that were out there in the world, exposed to nature’s cruelest time.

When I found that Christmas was really a winter solstice celebration, and that people went whole hog in celebrating their survival and their hopes that they would manage to make it until the world woke up, I was heartened.

The image of Victorian people wearing heavy clothing carolled, their sweet, clear voices mingling with their cloudy breath as the sound rose into the snowy night is a powerful one for me, evoking a mixed shudder of cold and a triumphant joy in my heart.

Stefon Mears
I think it’s the rebirth element. In the Celtic tradition — which is what I drew on for “A Last Meal for the Holly King” — Midwinter and Midsummer are two of the four solar poles of the year (the others being the equinoxes). And at each of the two, one figure dies and the other ascends into prominence.

I’ve heard people try to compare this to the idea of the new year as portrayed in American popular culture, in which the old year — represented by an old man with a long beard — dies at midnight on New Year’s Eve and the new year — represented by a baby — is born.

But that’s not the way it works in the Celtic tradition. In the Celtic tradition, two great kings — the Holly King and the Oak King — do battle on the solstices. At Midsummer, the Holly King kills the Oak King. The days grow shorter, leading into fall and winter. At Midwinter, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and the days grow longer, leading into spring and summer.

These are not quite battles of equals. In each case, a young king defeats an old king in ritual combat. This is as it must be. The Wheel of the Year must turn.

Implicit in this, though rarely discussed openly, is the rebirth element. In fact, in modern American Pagan ritual depictions of the solstices, often the old king is defeated, but not slain.

I think that misses part of the point. The rebirth element. One king is slain, but reborn immediately. He will grow until he is ready to do battle at the next solstice. Winter arising during summer, and summer within winter. Cycles within cycles.

I think it’s that rebirth element that compelled me to write “A Last Meal for the Holly King”.

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

Diana Benedict
The Middle East, especially Greece and Crete. I read my first Greek myth at seven and was entranced. I devoured everything the librarians could find. I read them over and over.

I will go. I will.

Stefon Mears
Part of the reason I enjoy writing contemporary and urban fantasy is that I like to see the wondrous in the world around me. Heck, the first urban fantasy novel I wrote — Caught Between Monsters — begins with a struggle with a ghoul in an alley behind an abandoned shopping center. Very much the kind of wasteland or forgotten graveyard that lurks in every city and suburb.

I have to admit, though, that after moving back to Oregon back in 2011, I’ve really fallen in love with writing about the Pacific Northwest. There’s a sense of wildness and magic to the whole region. I really hope I do it justice in my stories.

I set “A Last Meal for the Holly King” in Oregon partially because the Oregon forests feel ancient and mythic to me. An appropriate setting for such a tale.

Is there something from a legend, fairy or folk tale, or myth that you haven’t yet used in your writing, but would like to?

Diana Benedict
A centaur. I love the idea of centaurs. When I found out they were likely the first images of horsemen, it made sense, but the centaur mythos was already firmly planted in my imagination. I always see Charon first in my mind before I see the warrior men riding horses as they descend upon a hapless city.

But centaurs have a lot of inherent biological or physiological problems. My concrete nature wars with my fantasy-loving heart, and I can’t put them in a story until I can figure out a way they would work realistically. Or reasonably realistically.

Rebecca M. Senese
There are so many myths and legends that I would like to use at some point in my writing, either in my Crossroad City Tales series or my other series. I’m currently using a Siren in another series. At some point, I would like to write about Changelings. That’s just one of many myths I’d love to write about.

Stefon Mears
Before I could answer this one, I had to walk away from my computer for a few minutes so I could stop laughing.

Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, so much yes. I’m not even sure I know where to start listing them. From Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless (Russian) to Fintan and the Fir Bolg (Celtic) to more than I can list here. I mean, I’ve barely touched some of the ones I’ve already used (rakshasas and the fomhóraigh to name only two), and I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the Norse and Greek and…

I need to stop. I have a book to write.

Question for Diana Benedict:
“Summerland’s Paladin” begins with Todd running for his life from his half-brothers. As his brothers close in, a talking raven speaks to him. Todd follows the bird through a tunnel of branches and finds himself in Faerie. Did you incorporate any mythology in creating the talking raven, and what did you enjoy about writing the raven’s character?

Well, there are ravens in all kinds of cultures and that gave me lots of options to play with. Plus, they are super smart. The people of the age knew they were smart.

Odin had ravens named Hugin (thought) and Munin (desire). They flew out every morning and did reconnaissance, sharing what they learned with Odin, so he learned new things.

Native Americans have ravens, referring to them as world creators or tricksters.

I have always been impressed with how smart they are. They are wonderful problem solvers in research studies; they can recognize faces and will share information about dangerous people with the fellow flock members; they are generous and reciprocal in nature, often gifting presents to people who share food with them.

When I was camping at the Grand Canyon, they told us to not leave our sewer hoses out for longer than it took to drain the tanks because the ravens would poke holes in them. They would also steal food given the chance.

I also love talking animals so it was no surprise that should love Ri Fiach, the Raven King. He is wise, he is old, and he has a good grip on the best way to problem solve given his wisdom and understanding of the situation. He knew Todd was the answer to Summerland’s problem.

I would love to use him in a story again some time. I probably will. Yeah. I am going now to make notes about what kind of a story that might be.

Question for Stefon Mears:
In “A Last Meal for the Holly King,” your protagonist runs into the Holly King the day before the winter solstice. You pulled a number of elements from mythology and folklore into this story. Which ones are your favorites, and why?

Well, some of this I addressed above about Midwinter, and some I want to hold back for fear of spoiling the story. But I’ll confess to this one, because it always makes me smile.

If you meet an old man or woman on the road—especially if that person is in distress—help them. Because if you happen to be in a folktale, there’s a better than even chance that this person is magical in some way, and will repay your kindness.

Careful though. This isn’t transactional. If you offer help anticipating that you’ll get something, you won’t. It has to be a sincere offer of assistance out of kindness, or the goodness of one’s heart.

In “A Last Meal for the Holly King”, the situation is a little more complicated than the third child going out to seek his/her fortune. But for me, that just makes the encounter more interesting.

Question for Rebecca M. Senese:
You’ve written several stories about Maeve Hemlock. Maeve is a detective with the Spells and Misdemeanours Bureau in Crossroad City, where magic and the normal world collide after the Great Tear opened a rift between the dimensions of the normal world and the Nether Realm. What do you enjoy about writing stories set in Crossroad City, and what’s your favorite part about this story in particular?

As I mentioned in my response about weaving elements of myth and legend, I love using the backdrop of a city caught near a magical rift and playing with where that could lead, especially adding in a mystery element. I have great fun riffing on the hard-boiled detective idea but she’s also a faerie, which brings in a whole other side and area that can be complicated.

In “Holly vs Oak,” I enjoyed having a chance to dive a little deeper into Maeve’s home life back in the North Court before she became a detective in the city. I also liked taking the idea of the change from midsummer to midwinter and turning it into an exhibition fight, as a twist on the legend and giving it a modern feel.

Find the authors!

Diana Benedict

Website ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Rebecca M. Senese

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Stefon Mears

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ BookBub ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

Find The Realm of Faerie bundle!

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

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