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The Way to Winter 50% Off!

My novel, The Way to Winter is on sale for the month of July! This offer is valid ONLY at Smashwords. The link will take you to the page for my book and also offers access to the many other ebooks taking part in the promotion! If you’re looking for a retelling of the Snow Queen that has:

A creepily obsessive Snow Queen
Trolls
Folktales
A heroine on a quest to rescue her twin
Gardening

then this is the book for you.

Don’t let time slip away from you! This sale is available only until July 31.

Life Goals

To place copies of my book in Little Free Libraries whenever possible.

"The Muse" now online for free reading

The Muse can now be read for free on Mythic Delirium’s website! If you’ve been wanting to read my short story about one of the brothers from the fairy tale “The Wild Swans,” an artist, and the artist’s assistant/model but you haven’t bought the ebook, now’s your chance.

revenge of the geese

You know, geese can be really nasty. I wonder if, after she had spent a lot of time taking care of them and getting to know them, if the princess-turned-goose-girl ever thought about siccing her geese on the false princess. That would be some great revenge.
I have had an occasional pain in one of my eyes for the past few days and I now feel much more sympathy for Kai from The Snow Queen.

"The Muse" published

My most recent fantasy short story, “The Muse”, can now be read in Mythic Delirium! Inspired by the fairy tale “The Wild Swans,” an artist’s assistant and model sees a man with a swan’s wing in place of one of his arms and shares the discovery with her employer, who is eager to paint something new.

The Spring 2016 issue of Mythic Delirium can be purchased as an ebook in a variety of formats through the publication’s website and is also available for Kindle at Amazon.

writing research: funerals and wakes

This week I've been making my way through Death in Early America: The History and Folklore of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning by Margaret M. Coffin. (Yes, that really is her last name.) It's a great resource and I'm finding lots of useful information in it. I particularly like the chapter about wakes and post-funeral feasts turning into all night-parties. The book in particular includes information about Irish Catholic wakes, revealing that sometimes the body might be stood up to enjoy the festivities. Margaret Coffin then goes on to include one anecdote about a wake from the late 19th century that I've got to share with you:

In North Norwich, New York, friends of two Irish railroad men were invited to their wake. The railroad workers, Mike and Jim Gavin, in their cups, had commandeered a handcart and careened down the track to meet a fast passenger train head-on. Jim was beheaded and Mike, according to local gossip, "so smeared over the wheels they had to scrape him off with a case knife." Comrades of the two men celebrated the accident appropriately with a rousing, rowdy farewell party at which they removed Jim's head from the coffin and set it on a high chair with his favorite pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth.
Source: Clever Cooks: A Concoction of Stories, Charms, Recipes and Riddles compiled by Ellin Greene

Fairy tales are full of kings, princesses, and emperors, but sometimes you just want a story about normal people, like you and me. In “The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies” we have a woman who’s both the Best Baker Ever and clever enough to find her way out of trouble after the fairies take an interest in her.

When it comes to the British Isles and Ireland, stories about humans being kidnapped by the fairies are a dime a dozen. The most common reasons are: midwife to a previously-stolen human woman; marriage to a fairy; and a child exchanged for a fairy infant. (Interestingly, men are almost never taken away to fairyland. The only example I can think of is Thomas the Rhymer.) Although I enjoy reading all of the above, this has become one of my favorite stories about being stolen away by the fairies. It has several features that make it stand out from other tales in this “genre.”

And yet, the kidnapping in this story doesn’t happen for any of the well-known reasons. Our heroine has a rough time of it at the start: she is a baker who has spent the entire day at the local castle baking cakes for a wedding, then the fairies kidnap her while she’s walking home that night. She must be a damn good baker in order to tempt the fairies. Then again, who among us hasn’t been tempted to do something foolish when craving dessert?

In some stories, the human has a helper who tells him or her how to escape from fairyland, but not this time—the baker figures it out all on her own. Her efforts at convincing the fairies to let her go by cheerfully playing dumb while preparing their cake make me laugh each time I read this story. In particular, her dog and cat don’t seem to care at all that they’ve been taken to fairyland but act as they would in any other kitchen. “Clever Cooks” is illustrated by the wonderful Trina Schart Hyman and she has a particularly entertaining picture of the chaos taking place after the fairies have fetched the baker’s equipment, her pets, her husband, and their baby.

The last thing I find surprising about this story is that there are no consequences for tricking the fairies and unleashing chaos in their realm. Not only does the baker get to return home with her family, she receives a bag of gold every week. And it’s not even fairy gold that turns to leaves and dirt in the morning! Although to be fair, the fairies do get their cake in the end.

This story is followed in the book by a delicious-looking cake recipe.

Adaptations: None that I know of. I think it would have made a delightful episode of Jim Henson’s “The Storyteller.”

"The Way to Winter" sale ends

Happy first day of winter! It rained constantly from the solstice through this morning where I am, so at least I don’t feel bad about not trying to wake up in time for the sunrise. I suspect the Snow Queen will still be irritated by the unseasonable warmth, though.

And so ends my blogging marathon for “The Way to Winter.” I didn’t quite post 22 days of content but I came close. It was a lot of fun and I’m happy to have shared some of the background content for my “Snow Queen” retelling with you. Today is the last day of the sale. Prices for the ebook and paperback will return to their normal rates tomorrow.

22 Days of The Way to Winter: Day 18

The Swan Maiden (Sweden)

This is the first folktale retold within “The Way to Winter” and also the first scene in which some of the characters begin to realize that either Eva is either lacking an understanding of “It needed to happen because of the plot, that’s why” or is something of an asshole. The story Nana tells is one of a kind that can be found from many cultures, in which a man sees an animal transform into a beautiful woman, steals her magical belonging that allows her to shape-shirt, and marries her. In this case, the man is a hunter who sees three swans change into women. Following his mother’s instructions, the hunter takes the feather cloak of the most beautiful swan maiden and is married to her for seven years.

It has to be said: no lasting good ever comes in fairy tales of marrying a woman who’s really an animal or supernatural creature. There are so many stories of this type that sometimes I wonder if they could be meant as cautionary tales against marrying strangers. Folktales about shape-shifting woman can be found in multiple cultures; some of the other examples are mermaids with a magic cap and selkies with seal skins. While there are stories about male supernatural lovers who change shape (most often animal bridegrooms; my favorites are three versions of the same tale: Prince Lindworm, King Wivern, and The Serpent Prince), the cause of the change in these tales is typically due to an enchantment or curse and once the bridegroom transforms into a man, he never reverts to his original body. All of the folktales I have read in which the supernatural character is able to shape-shift multiple times from animal to human as part of their normal behavior have been about women.

Some stories feature the woman finding her feathers, her skin, her cap somewhere, but not this time. In this story the hunter, while playing “Do you remember when” with his wife, actually gets out the feathers to show her. Bad move. Goodbye, wife. He dies a year and a day later. Stick to mortal wives, men.

I do have to wonder why the other two swans who were present at the beginning of the story never returned for their sister/companion/friend/flock member. One possibility is that, having learned what became of the hunter’s swan maiden, they were afraid to return to the place in case the same thing might happen to them. On a lighter note, let me just say that swans in fairy tales seem to be a lot nicer than swans in real life. I have never been attacked or chased by a swan like some people have, but there are times I’ve been in a swan’s presence and I’m certain it’s thinking about all the ways it can beat me up.

I have a great deal more to say about the relationships between shape-shifters and their spouses, but currently all of that is being used in the novel I’m writing about Rika, the shape-shifting raven whose cloak is stolen by Gerda in “The Way to Winter.”

Adaptations: None that I know of. Although there are many works of fiction about shape-shifting female lovers, I’m not familiar with any based on this particular story.