Interview: Jamie Ferguson on “Inside a Fairy Tale”

“Inside a Fairy Tale” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

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

Meet Jamie Ferguson!

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

“Inside a Fairy Tale”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

—from “Inside a Fairy Tale” by Jamie Ferguson

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Jamie

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

Find Jamie

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Find Innocence and Deceit!

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

“The Fennigsan’s Challenge” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

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

Meet Stefon Mears!

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

“The Fennigsan’s Challenge”

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

Excerpt

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

“What would you say to that?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I will not abandon him,” said Torvius.

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

Torvius stepped up behind Lloxup in a show of solidarity.

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stefon’s occult book collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Stefon

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

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

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

Find Stefon

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Find Innocence and Deceit

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

“If the Shoe Fits” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

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

Meet Dayle A. Dermatis!

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

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

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

“If the Shoe Fits”

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

Excerpt

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

But not in the way anyone would expect.

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

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

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

My aunt, Sheila, thought differently.

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your favorite Styx song? 🙂 

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

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

Tell us about your cats! 

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

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

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

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

About Dayle

Hailed as “one of the best writers working today” by bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith, Dayle A. Dermatis is the author or coauthor of many novels and more than a hundred short stories in multiple genres, including urban fantasy novel Ghosted. She is the mastermind behind the Uncollected Anthology project, and her short fiction has been lauded in year’s best anthologies in erotica, mystery, and horror.

She lives in a book- and cat-filled historic English-style cottage in the wild greenscapes of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time she follows Styx around the country and travels the world, which inspires her writing.

Find Dayle

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Interview: Pam McCutcheon on “After the Ball”

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

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

Meet Pam McCutcheon!

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

“After the Ball”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

—from “After the Ball” by Pam McCutcheon

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Pam

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

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

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Interview: Diana Benedict on “City of Nowhere in the World”

“City of Nowhere in the World” is in Innocence and Deceit, the second volume in the Ever After Fairy Tales anthology series.

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

Meet Diana Benedict!

Diana Benedict, aka Thea Hutcheson, lives in Colorado with a collection of books, cats, the boxes and other accouterments the cats entertain themselves with, and an understanding partner. She loves pulling the magical, fairy tale aspect of storytelling into her stories.

“City of Nowhere in the World”

Korshan falls and cuts her knee on a hidden rock in “City of Nowhere in the World.” Korshan seeks the shaman to ask for salve for her knee, not realizing what magical adventures await her.

Excerpt

Korshan steeled herself to stand tall and not quake with the fear that rattled her legs and made her belly clench down tight. It was one thing to see an old man and call him a shaman. It was another to see him wearing his cloak and hear and see the magic in front of you. She looked away lest he see the terror in her eyes and think she wasn’t worthy of his help, or shouldn’t have been trusted with eggs in the first place.

“Come with me, little sun,” he said, waving his staff at her.

She followed him around back of the hut, past the goat pen and the garden to the edge of the barley field, emerald against the dark mud.

“Fetch me a stick and a withy,” he said. Korshan went and picked up a reed and found a long supple twig, and brought them to him.

He sang over them and waved his staff and danced a bit. The lion’s eyes blazed like embers in a smithy’s fire and the stick grew and split, grew and split, while the withy stretched like a long rope and wound around and around, the whole thing growing into a ladder that reached far up into the sky.

“Climb that and look for your eggs,” the shaman commanded.

Korshan stared at the ladder standing straight up and reaching toward the sky. She looked back down the road where she had come, and then back at the ladder. How could this lead to her eggs?

—from “City of Nowhere in the World” by Diana Benedict

The Interview

What inspired you to write “City of Nowhere in the World?”

I read this tale in an anthology of tales of brave girls from around the world and love the nonsensical connections that pulled the reader through the story. But the original was like many fairy tales—bare boned. I just knew Korshan needed more flesh on her story bones to do her tale justice. 

In a previous interview, you said the stories you write with fairy tale elements that are special to you. What is it about these stories that gives you such a strong connection to them? 

I love the magic. I also love that people and animals go through those adventures and come out successful because of their own wits and innate talents. I have always felt like I had to depend on myself to get what I want, and U have made my way in the world successfully because I pursued what I wanted, sometimes in the face of people telling me I couldn’t or shouldn’t for various reasons. 

Where is “City of Nowhere in the World” set, and what is it that you like about this geographical area? 

The story is set in Mesopotamia. I have always been drawn to the Middle East–Greece, Anatolia, and Crete are my favorites, but the earliest cities were built along the Euphrates and Tigres rivers. They were busy figuring out that they could farm and feed themselves, creating time to do other things, like build cities and learn how to live in them. The Bronze Age is my favorite time period. People believed in magic and gods, and people could be magicians and speak to gods. Wonderful things happened back then, when the world was really just getting started in ways that modern people can touch and relate to. That is the best magic.

In “City of Nowhere in the World” Korshan Ilibasha is a strong and clever protagonist, like many of the characters you write about. What do you enjoy about working characters like this into your stories?

They give me a chance to play with lots of situations, and I can give the characters many chances to have adventures where they find their strengths, leverage their fears, and come out better whether they really get what they want or not. It also lets me see into myself and find out wonderful things about myself and my hopes and dreams.

Perils for Portents is a steampunk novel about a haunted fortune telling machine. Do you plan on writing anything else in this world?

Yes, I have several other novels planned for this series. They are a bit further down the production schedule, but Francie Wolcott will get married, and she and Madame LaFontaine, the ghost that haunts the machine, will have several adventures, both in America and abroad. Those stories take place in a very special and difficult time for women just before the turn of the 19th century, and Francie will find her own way through them.

Diana Benedict is one of your pen names. What are the others, and how do you decide which name to write under? 

I also write under Thea Hutcheson and Theda Hudson. 

When I get an idea for a story, I explore who the characters are, the setting, and the theme. What I find for answers determines who gets credit.

 Diana Benedict mostly gets the stories about young and new adults. She also wrote King of the Air, which appears in Doorway into Faerie: Sixteen Tales of Magic and Enchantment (A Procession of Faeries Book 3), which is about a woman in her thirties. She is older than Diana usually writes, but the story was so darn beautiful, she just begged to be the author. 

Thea Hutcheson writes science fiction and fantasy that feature adult characters. She gets to tell all the kinds of stories I was devouring and dreaming of as I grew up and continue to contemplate as an adult.

Theda Hudson writes romance, often with a spicier edge and many times featuring lesbian characters. If I have an idea about an aspect of sexuality or relationships, Theda gets to explore it. 

Tell us about your cats! 

Thanks for asking! We have four cats. They are all rescues. Muncher, Tom, and M all were born under or on our deck, and Ed Gumji came from the Alley Cat Rescue. Muncher is nearly fourteen now, and a “white on the bottom with a gray hooded cloak” cat. She is my partner’s cat. She only loves him and has seen him through leukemia and bladder cancer. Me she will tolerate to feed and empty the cat box, and allows an occasional pet, but mostly she gives me the stink eye and a hiss, just on general purposes.

Ed Gumji is my fraidy cat. He is a buff and cream tabby who had a really horrible start in life. He had to wear a sweatshirt because he had no body fat to speak of and the minute you put it on, he became the brokeback cat. They told me he was six weeks old when I adopted him, but he was really six months old since his fangs came in shortly after I got him. His baby fangs didn’t fall out and he had to have surgery to remove them, just the start of his dental issues. He had ringworm, internal parasites, and as suffered an ongoing battle with irritable bowel syndrome. He’s twelve now and, for the last year, he only eats oven roasted chicken, which I buy as whole chickens and cut up into meal-sized packets for him, and vacuum seal for freshness. Oh, yes, and Friskies for dinner even though it’s like Kitty McDonald’s, but it’s one of the few other things he will eat. He was a wonderful uncle to Tom and M, whom we rescued when they were four weeks old.

Tom and his two siblings were born in the kitty condo we made for the feral cats to birth in so they were safe. When the momma cats would wean the kittens, we would trap the lot of them and get them spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and return them home where they took up their catly lives, coming back for food and fresh water as they wanted. 

But something happened to this momma and one of her kittens. Tom was very talkative and we could hear him meowing from the kitty condo, even with the deck door shut. We went to look and these two adorable kittens were in there. We watched for another day, but Momma didn’t came back. My partner said, “If they eat food, we’re bringing them in.” 

I thought of Muncher and Ed Gumji, but how could I resist these cuties? They did lick up baby food so we brought them in and bottle fed them. We cleaned their little bottoms and put them to bed at night in a scale model tent from Target. When the time came, introduced them to kitten food. That is super fun to watch if you ever get the chance. 

Ed thought we were doing a terrible job of grooming them and he took over those duties plus, he played with them. Tom looked very much like the Big Bad Daddy Tom in the neighborhood–a thick, soft, all-white coat with an ashy mark on his forehead.Tom’s mohawk, as we called the mark, faded, but he turned out to have a blue left eye and green right eye.

His sister, M, is clearly related to Muncher, much to Muncher’s disgust, because she has the same white lower half, gray hooded cloak, and the same faint white stripe over her hips. But she has the tabby “M” on her forehead, hence her name. She also has a long, lemur-like tail and she fetches, bringing the toy mouse to you and asking politely, but insistently for you to throw it. She and Tom are both seven now, but we still call them the kids.

So, now we have four cats and they are all lovely and funny, with interesting personalities and quirks. And, yes, I am halfway to being a crazy cat lady!

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

Theda Hudson just finished a lesbian urban fairy tale that is the second novel in a series. It is a tale based on the Grimm’s fairy tale, “The Crystal Orb”. But it is so much more. There is magic, destiny, mystery, an enchanted princess in a castle, true love, giants, and a magic hat that will take you wherever you like. It is fun because I get to transpose the fairy tale onto modern life and twist the tale elements into new shapes. 

I am also working on a fae short story for Diana Benedict about a reluctant queen. I got to do a lot of research about Iron Age Ireland. I love research. I like to do a lot, and yes, it can be a rabbit hole, but what treasures you can find! The research gems find their way into the story in interesting ways and informs the characters, making them fully formed with views and needs and beliefs all their own.

Once that story is finished I will write the third in a time travel series for Thea Hutcheson. This one takes place just before the last time Lake Missoula, an ice age glacial lake in northern Idaho, flooded. It was an epic flood, changing the topography of the land all the way to the Pacific Northwest. The main characters are comprised of two couples, one a Bronze Age Cretan prince and a near future woman, the other a 1980s forensic anthropologist and a Bronze Age African shamaness, who had their own novels already, plus one demi-god whose alter shape is a cat. They are charged with saving Ice Age animals and people from the flood, and shepherding them into a pocket universe for a goddess who loves her creations too much to let them die. Little do they know that Chaos believes that fate should not be meddled with and has agents of his own to enforce his beliefs. They not only must learn how to work as a team, but confront the forces of Chaos as they try to save elephants and tigers and bears from being swept away in a flood of biblical proportions.

About Diana

Diana lives in a small suburban Colorado city a mile away from where she grew up. She loves studying magic and history and will take any opportunity to combine them into a good story. She once tried to work a spell inspired by a tale her great aunt told her and has always felt lucky that it only turned her fingers green for a week.

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Interview: Deb Logan on “Beauty or Butterface?”

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

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

Meet Deb Logan!

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

“Beauty or Butterface?”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

—from “Beauty or Butterface?” by Deb Logan

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Deb

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

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Interview: Brigid Collins on “Claws at Hand”

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

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

Meet Brigid Collins!

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

“Claws at Hand”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

—from “Claws at Hand” by Brigid Collins

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Brigid

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

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

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

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

Meet Karen L. Abrahamson!

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

“Like Wind Over Water”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

Or maybe it was.

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I seriously love nats…

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

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

Tell us about your cats! 

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

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

I won’t say anymore. They are listening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Karen

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

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

Find Karen

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

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

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

Meet DeAnna Knippling!

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

“Doctor Rudolfo Meets His Match”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

“Don’t touch anything,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shh.  It’s a secret.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About DeAnna

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

Find DeAnna

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

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

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

Meet Annie Reed

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

“Chance of Bunnies and Occasional Toad”

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

The Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Annie

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

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

Find Annie

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Find Innocence and Deceit!

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