“The Lizard Horses” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.
Enter the magical, unpredictable, wonderful world of fairy tales!
Meet Leah Cutter!
When Leah was eight years old, she wrote in her journal, “When I grow up, I want to be a writer.” She now writes everything from fantasy to science fiction to mystery. She’s a member of the Uncollected Anthology, an urban and contemporary fantasy collective, and of the syndicate Boundary Shock Quarterly, whose motto is “On theme. With weird.”
“The Lizard Horses”
“The Lizard Horses” is set in modern-day Hungary. Jelek loves reading old myths and legends, like the stories of Hungarian wizards, how they only drink milk and always carry around weighty spell books. But what if some myths are true?
Still, I decided to catch at least a few now. I slid my crutch across the threshold and poked at the nest, startling the brood hen. She stood up and hissed at me, spreading her wings wide.
Five lizards sped out from loose collection of hay and grass under her.
I pushed myself back, startled, landing on my ass in the dirt.
Stupid tyúk. Lizards ate eggs. Bird probably had been keeping them warm for a week, not her chicks.
I grabbed my crutch and struck at the lizards coming out of the hut. Missed the first one as it raced away, and the second one as well. I ended up smacking the ground hard, jarring my arms as I pounded the dirt.
But the next three came out in a straight line. Whack. With a single stroke, I stunned them all. Then I took my crutch in both hands and smacked them again and again, until they were all dead.
They were some of the ugliest lizards I’d ever seen. Gray-stone colored, with nobby heads and matching points running down their spines. Their jaws were funny as well, over developed, like they could unhinge them to swallow something bigger than their heads.
—from The Lizard Horses by Leah Cutter
“The Lizard Horses” is based on the Hungarian Folk Tale “The Dragon Rider.” Why did you choose this particular tale as the basis for your story?
I wrote “The Lizard Horses” for an anthology call. I believe the spec called for stories based on myths. I’m familiar with a lot of non-traditional myths and stories. I went paging through one of my large collections, and ran across “The Dragon Rider.” I’d read it before, and everything all clicked in my head for this story when I read it with this anthology call in mind. I didn’t sell the short story to the anthology (though I did get a nice rejection letter.)
What do you enjoy about incorporating fairy tale elements in your own writing?
I love taking the existing tropes, fairy tales or others, and twisting them. What can I do to make this idea new, different, fresh and unusual? I also love fantasy, magic, and the hidden things lurking in the corners of the garden. All of these things regularly influence my writing, whether I consciously use them or not.
Traditional fairy tales varies depending on where the tellers lived. Is there a geographical region (or regions) whose fairy tales resonate more with you? And if so, why?
I’ve read so many fairy tales and myths from all over the world. I have lots of collections. I find the Mongolian myths fascinating, because of the horses. I love the dream-like quality of some of the South American myths. And the darkness of the eastern European myths.
You’ve written another story about feathered serpents mating with chickens! “The Challenges of Raising Urban Chickens” is part of the Uncollected Anthology’s Beasties issue. Did you change the mythology you used between that story and “The Lizard Horses?”
Oh yes. They aren’t related at all. The feathered serpent in “Chickens” is from South America, and it’s speculated that he’s a “snow bird” – traveling north in the summer when it’s hot, then migrating south again during the winter. “The Lizard Horses” uses a very different Hungarian serpent.
Trolls are used as changelings in many, many of the European myths. And that’s where I start with in “The Changeling Troll” – a troll who’s been raised as human, so her human “sister” can fulfill her destiny. There are a lot of tropes I play with there, such as Trolls loving the underground, guarding bridges, being short tempered and “troll-like”. The second trilogy (The Troll Wars series) introduces a lot of different species, and I had a lot of fun taking what was expected and twisting it.
You write in multiple genres, including fantasy, mystery, science fiction, horror. Do you have a favorite genre?
I always seem to come back to fantasy. While I’ll write other things, fantasy appeared to be my one true love. In particular, contemporary fantasy. That’s the “flavor” of fantasy in which I have the most novels finished. After fantasy, I love all the others equally.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?
I’m just about finished with the second book in a dark, epic fantasy trilogy, Wind-Stone-Sea. (“A Wind Blown Torment”, “A Stone Strewn Clash”, and “A Sea Washed Victory.”) I love this series because no one is human. All the characters are relatable, but the magic and what they can do is very different. It’s a typical trilogy structure – book one – things get bad, book two – things get much, much worse, book three – everything gets resolved, eventually. It’s kind of one big story, instead of a stand alone first book followed by a duology. The next book is the last of an urban fantasy series, so back to my beloved contemporary settings. After that, who knows?
Leah Cutter writes page-turning fiction in exotic locations, such as a magical New Orleans, the ancient Orient, Hungary, the Oregon coast, rural Kentucky, Seattle, Minneapolis, and many others.
She writes literary, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, and horror fiction. Her short fiction has been published in magazines like Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Talebones, anthologies like Fiction River, and on the web. Her long fiction has been published both by New York publishers as well as small presses.