September 28, 2016

Ghost Issue Submission Window Closes Friday

Don't turn your glittering ghost story (or poem) into a sad overripe pumpkin, get it in by Friday, Sept. 30, at 11:59 p.m., EST.

Boo!


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September 23, 2016

One Week Left to Submit for Ghost Issue

Okay spooky poets and storytellers, you've got one week left to submit. 

Here's a link to submission guidelines:

Inspiration--realistic, isn't it?


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September 17, 2016

Michael McDowell, Read His Books Today


About a week ago, I was looking for classic horror titles to read, and came across the book, The Elementals. It's a Southern Gothic mind blower that builds slowly to a very creepy finish.

I was left asking who is this author, Michael McDowell, and how could I have missed him for so long?

I was hooked. I'm a very fast reader, so soon, I was looking for more McDowell. I read Cold Moon Over Babylon, which I liked as well. I just found out that a movie based on it, Cold Moon, will be released next month. I had no idea.

Now I'm reading Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga, which is not really horror, but has horror elements.

I am entranced. Why hasn't a tv series been made out of it?

So, what does this have to do with fairy tales? Well, there are elements of the supernatural, at a minimum, in each book, as well as transformation. Also, women are very powerful in his books and make things happen. They don't stay victims long, when they are victimized.  This guy got women as people.

Oh, and he also wrote the screenplays for Beetlejuice and and Nightmare Before Christmas. Had he not died an untimely death, on Dec. 27, 1999, I think he'd be way more famous.

He wrote a lot of his books in the'80s, and, given the popularity of Stranger Things, which was amazing, I think lots of people will be hooking up with relics of '80s culture. Start with McDowell.

But read the fairy godmother issue first, please.
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Fairy Godmother Issue Table of Contents

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The 1% Fairy Godmother Strata, By Janet Bowdan


If you ask me, they get more credit than they deserve
swooping down at the last minute with a wand and a fancy
dress
like that’s going to solve all the world’s problems.  Where
have they been while the rest of us are struggling to get the
day’s
work done?  Sure, they came to the naming party, brought a
gift,
something useful like “the voice of a lark” or “tresses as gold
as wheat,” flutter of wings, wave of magic wand, bye-bye, see
you
in 20 years or so once you’ve grown up and gotten interesting.
By which they mean ripe for romance with a side order of
toppling
the status quo just to set it right up again claiming to be better
at it
than the previous lot.  Different, maybe.  Less experienced, sure.
And okay, let’s say our fairy godmother pops in, rights a wrong,
restores the lost heiress to her family and high position,
throwing in
a makeover while she’s at it: where was everybody else all
those years
watching as the wicked stepmother abuses her, the oblivious
dad
neglects her, the family she doesn’t fit into bullies her? 
Assuming
a small flock of bluebirds and a couple of mice were going to
step up?
Thinking that was going to be sufficient?  Why was nobody
noticing,
or if noticing, why was nobody trying to help? How is that
godchild
going to turn out by the time the fairy g shows up—good,
sweet,
patient?  What view of the world would you have, left to fend
for yourself?

Bio: Janet Bowdan's poems have been published in APR, Denver Quarterly, Clade Song, Verse, Gargoyle, Free State Review, Wordpeace, and other journals, most recently Meat for Tea and Amethyst Arsenic. She teaches at Western New England University and edits the poetry magazine Common Ground Review.  She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband, son, and sometimes a stepdaughter or two.

Image by Emma Florence Harrison.
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The House That Jack Built, By Erin Wyble Newcomb



The house that Jack built sat atop a hill along the well-worn trail of Fairy Tale Forest. He called his establishment “The Giant’s Brew,” and he offered his customers the finest in regional cuisine, all sourced locally. It was a comfortable house, where the fire was always stoked and the wine was always sweet and the bread always rose and the cheese never turned.

But, really, what Jack wanted most was not a house but a home.

So one day, after a suspicious but fortuitous explosion at the local mill, Jack brought home a bride. The mill sat in a charred heap of ashes, which meant Jack had to travel a little farther afield for his flour. That was inconvenient, no doubt, but he’d always suspected the miller of adulterating the flour anyway. And now at least the miller’s daughter, Milli, was free to marry Jack. On balance, the circumstances worked out in favor of Jack’s house, and Jack always paid attention to the balance. It was not a poor house, and Milli’s presence made it so much the richer.

Now Jack and Milli kept house together, and “The Giant’s Brew” prospered. There was magic in the place, folks said. The bean soup was out of this world. The bread was made with flour so fine it was worth more than gold. There was a goose who laid the most glorious eggs every day and twice on Sundays. Anyone could look in on Jack’s house, though, mercifully, it was not a house of glass. Jack and Milli called it a house of dreams.

But all that changed the day Mr. Wolf paid them a visit.

Mr. Wolf took the finest seat by the fire and basked his bare toes in its warmth. He guzzled the wine and tossed the bottles onto the floor, where they shattered. Shards of glass littered the floor, and all Jack’s guests had to tiptoe around the appetites of the Wolf. Perhaps the dream house was, after all, only a house of cards.

Mr. Wolf shed fur all over the chairs and frightened the goose until she passed stones instead of eggs. He devoured the food without bothering to compliment the cooks and left trails of breadcrumbs wherever he went.

At first, Jack and Milli tried to appease the Wolf, not understanding that the nature of the beast is wanting. My house is your house, they said. For every drink and every morsel, Jack and Milli slaved away and never charged the Wolf a cent. Not that he would have given them one, anyway. But it was always service with a smile, and every comfort on the house.

The lady of the house grew fed up first. She’d escaped, with no subtlety but lots of style, from the house of her father and its terrible curse of servitude. She didn’t marry Jack to transfer her bondage from one man to another. Certainly not for the Wolf’s sake. The girl who blew up her father’s business didn’t believe in half-measures, nor halfway houses.

Milli urged Jack to evict the Wolf, but neither one of the proprietors of “The Giant’s Brew” knew how. Mr. Wolf drove business away. The fire in the hearth dimmed and the wine soured and the bread failed to rise and the cheese turned moldy. Still, the Wolf stayed, showing no appreciation for fine food and no discernment of poor fare. He understood hunger alone, and no matter how much Jack and Milli toiled, the Wolf’s belly rumbled for more. The house that Jack built was a safe house no more.

With each passing day, the realization dawned on Jack and Milli: they were prisoners in their own home. Something had to be done, and quickly, before Mr. Wolf ate them out of house and home.

Now Milli, having a personal history and penchant for pyrotechnics, entertained the possibility of burning the house down with the Wolf inside. Jack discouraged this idea, bearing a preference for setting his house in order rather than bringing it down. That was no kind of victory for Milli, but Jack also had no intention of being the fool who built the house so that a wise Wolf could live in it.

One night, while donning the fuzzy white slippers given to her by her fairy godmother, Milli at last knew what to do. She’d call upon Faye, the aforesaid fairy godmother, who’d promised her three wishes and fulfilled thus far only two. Jack slept soundly in bed. The Wolf snored on the hearth rug. Milli nursed two secrets, and the first was Faye, whom she invited into her house with good cheer.

Her fairy godmother stepped across the threshold of Jack’s house. She slipped past the snuffling Wolf and the closed door of Jack and Milli’s bedroom. Milli waited patiently for Faye’s arrival, knowing that the house that Jack built held many doors.

Faye opened the kitchen door, took one look at her goddaughter, and knew Milli’s second secret, a confidence neither Jack nor the Wolf suspected. “A baby on the way!” Faye cooed. “And here I thought I was attending a housewarming party!”

“Not at all,” Milli insisted. “I need your help once more, to clean house before this is a full house.”

Faye nodded. A child would truly make the house a home—but not with the Wolf making himself at home.

Faye had helped Milli move house before. Milli secured the match that blew up her father’s mill, but Faye secured the information of Rumpelstiltskin’s name. And Faye made the match between Jack and Milli that secured their happy, humble home.

The Wolf, though, was a formidable adversary with nothing to lose. He was playing with house money. Faye thought about their enemy: a man and a monster, a lamb and a brother, a king and a slave. He prowled and howled and scowled. He was always hungry, but his belly was full of stones.

In the kitchen, the goose honked in her sleep. Another nightmare about an enemy in her nest, no doubt. She couldn’t understand why Jack and Milli gave Mr. Wolf house room, but she’d lost most of her credibility for complaints when she stopped laying those golden eggs. Faye turned to the slumbering bird and observed the pile of stones that had replaced the eggs.

Here is some of what Faye knew: Stories are like stones. You can carry one in your pocket. You can throw one away. You can skip one across the water, watch it bounce, see it sink. You can believe it’s forever because you don’t see the way it gets worn down in its telling. You can pass stones and you can pass stories. You can build them up and they can weigh you down. They are weapons for a mob or a slingshot. They are memories for the forgetful, which is all of us. There are hearts made of stone and hearts made of stories, and Milli herself made up the heart of her home and the heart of this story.

Milli sat in silence, too, examining her fairy godmother examining the pile of stones. She didn’t know much about stones or stories. But she knew monsters and she knew men. No difference, really. There’s a bit of wolf in all of us, or we wouldn’t get so confused. She couldn’t see clearly because the difference didn’t exist. It was a matter of form, not content. Either way she felt heartsick and homesick for the house that Jack built.

As the two women sat, observing the goose, a plan formed in their minds, and they were content. This was the house that Jack built, but Milli would be the one to salvage their home. There was no other place like it.

Faye weaved a spell around the stones. And as Jack and Mr. Wolf slept, Milli and her fairy godmother surrounded the Wolf with stones. Milli laid the cornerstone and the pile replenished itself until Faye laid the capstone. Mr. Wolf’s stone house was an in-house job, built by dawn.

When Jack awoke the next morning, the only traces of Faye were the tidy housekeeping that he attributed to his wife. He forgot the Wolf, and though from time to time he wondered about the odd stone wall in the house he’d built, he never questioned his wife, and she kept her secrets close to home.

Their baby came to fill their house with joy, and once more “The Giant’s Brew” bustled with business on the high road of Fairy Tale Forest. Sometimes strange noises emanated from behind the stone wall, but the guests’ cheer suffocated the sounds. Sometimes Milli worried that Mr. Wolf, too, could call upon a fairy godmother. She knew Faye’s work was all freelance these days.

And one night, Mr. Wolf did just that.

“Quite the performance,” he nodded to the stone cavern. “You really brought the house down. But it’s a bit claustrophobic for my tastes.”

So Faye used her magic to roll away the stone from one side of the Wolf’s house. He could come and go as he pleased then, with Jack and Milli none the wiser. He came, at last, to consider it his home away from home, and the fairy godmother was happy to come and drink with Mr. Wolf while he considered his next two wishes. They toasted the health of Jack and Milli and called down blessings on the house that Jack built.

And as the years passed, Mr. Wolf became something of a homebody. He never used those final two wishes from the fairy godmother, because he enjoyed her home visits too much. It never occurred to him that she might come just the same.

Milli suspected sometimes that Faye worked both sides of their transaction, though she knew that a house divided against itself could not stand. Sometimes, she thought she saw the Wolf coming and going. But mostly, she reminded herself that, after all, Jack’s house was a house with many rooms. She poured her heart into the house that Jack built until it became the house that Jack and Milli built. And who could say what lay in that house?

Erin Wyble Newcomb writes, reads, and teaches in the Hudson Valley. She writes regular columns for Christ and Pop Culture and Organic Hudson Valley, as well as scholarly articles. This is her first foray into fiction, which fits her love for all things fairy tale. She keeps up her compulsive list-making on Twitter @ErinWyble.
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Sun, Sky, Moon, By Priya Sridhar


(Inspired by "Donkeyskin")

I read your scroll demanding
A gown woven from the sun's rays
Embroidered with the brightest sunset
And the darkest flowers

I walked into the woods
Past the tallest trees, the thorniest bushes
Climbing the tallest hill
That climbs into the curving sky.

A sheaf of silk hung from my hands,
Dyed the color of marigolds in bloom.
I held it on the hill, feeling the setting sun
Entering the rippling cloth.

I caught each glistening, sweltering ray
So that the silk glowed and blazed
So will your daughter glow
In the gleam of your eye

I read your next scroll,
The handwriting curved and neat
Asking for a dress tailored from the sky
Embroidered with the finest clouds

I climbed the castle's tallest tower
Each step creaking my bones
Until I read the cobwebbed window
And climbed the narrow spire.
Thin muslin, blue and grey
Hung from my fingers
Spun with the stormy gusts
And tore at the fragile corners

I caught each breath of wind
So that the muslin murmured in pain
So will your daughter rip
In the heat of your heart

I read your last scroll,
The demanding words in a nervous scrawl:
A dress the color of our moon
Embroidered with the placid stars
I took white satin to the nearest lake
To spread on a makeshift loom
Carved from the spindliest rowan
Until the stars and darkness blanketed the water.
When the moon showed her face,
I drew her light from the lake's reflections,
A perfect mirror that turned away
Waxy-grey melted with charcoal black.

The satin absorbed these whites and greys,
Turning and twisting in my grasp
So will your daughter writhe
In the grasp of your hands.

Priya says, "Enclosed below is the poem "Sun, Sky, Moon" inspired by the fairytale "Donkeyskin". The idea came from the fact that if the princess had a fairy godmother telling her to get the dresses to delay the marriage to her father, then the king would have a magical servant who could get the dresses.


"Laksha Media has accepted "Memoriam" for publication in their 2017 anthology Where the Stars Rise. Beneath Ceaseless Skies accepted "Jeweled Nawab Resort" for publication in spring 2016. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles published "The Opera Singer" in the 2015 Lovecraftian anthology, She Walks in Shadows. Alban Lake released my novella "Carousel" for publication in fall 2014." Priya has numerous other writing credits.

Image by Harry Clarke.
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The Memory Ball, By Stuart Suffel


The footsteps were familiar, flabby but firm. The baker's son. I did not move from my desk. I glanced at the calendar. Ninety days exactly.

He rapped on the door, opened it and stood on the threshold. He was a giant of a boy, arms like rolling pins made from barrels. “Papa said it would be all right if I called. It being the time.”

Ninety days. Enough time to mourn anyone, according to local wisdom. I didn't answer. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. I smelled the bread he held in his hand. Fresh. I gestured that he enter. He ambled over, placed the bread on the desk before me. “That's just for starters,” he said.

I grimaced inwardly. If Saorcha had been sitting here his father himself would have come, but only after sending a basket of baked goods every day for a week first. But I was not Saorcha. I nodded a thank you. The bread did smell good, and I was hungry. I hadn't eaten since yesterday and it was noon now. “Aaron, isn't it?”

He nodded, grinning. “Papa said I need a wife.”

I frowned. A wife would cost a lot more than some freshly baked bread. His father was testing me. I looked at Aaron. He was a harmless fool. I wouldn't be too hard on him. I gestured that he sit. He shook his head. “I have to go back. Papa said to make sure that you said you would help.”

Papa was getting on my nerves. Maybe a sow would be the ideal wife for his son? I nodded. “Yes. I'll help.”

Aaron grinned his thanks. He sauntered towards the door. “Sorry about Lady Sorcha,” he said as he left.

I flinched as I heard my late wife's name. Aaron waved as he left. I knew his sentiment was genuine. Maybe not a sow. Maybe the tailor's daughter. A sweet girl. And just as dumb as the baker boy.

Love was both complex and simple, I reflected, as I picked up the bread and moved over to my meagre fire. It was spring, but I still felt the cold. Spring. No doubt there would be many 'love potion' requests, and more marriage 'assistance' requests. Spring. Not too long ago it was winter.

I poked the fire with one hand and hooked a pot onto one of the cooking irons with the other. The pot contained some cold soup. It would go nicely with the fresh bread. I stared into the fire, watching the flames rise higher. Saorcha made the best soup in the village. Had made. Past tense. She had passed.

I broke off some bread and ate it quickly. The past was for fools and fairies. A popular saying here in the village of Urram. I wondered if it was fools who had made up that saying. Or maybe fairies? Well there was still enough fools around I could ask. Not so many fairies left.

Fairies. Sootasense. What was it she had said to me? That she was leaving Urrum? I glanced at the calendar again. Today. She was leaving today! How could I have forgotten! I jumped up off my fireside stool. I had to say goodbye. Maybe...maybe I could even convince her to stay. Losing Saorcha was bad enough. If I lost my oldest friend as well...

She was still there, sitting outside in the sun. Fairy houses were usually pretty small, but the house Sootasense lived in was almost as big as a human house. But then, Sootasense was almost as big as a human. When my dear mother had asked her to be my Godmother, Sootasense had asked why? My mother, so it was said, answered, “because he's got a big head and tiny shoulders. He's going to need the hands of a big fairy to keep it from falling off.” Not a faint-heated soul, my dear departed mother.

Sootasense grinned at me as I approached. “You remembered then?”

I nodded back, too out of breath to talk.

“Running? Your broom not working?”

This was a ongoing joke. Wizards didn't use brooms. Except maybe to sweep things now and then. Although Saorcha had done most of that – even when I asked her not to. I frowned. I just had to stop thinking of her. I had to. “It's in the shoemaker's shop – getting a new handle fixed,” I quipped between breaths. A version of my ongoing response.

Sootasense laughed, as she always did. “Come inside, I've a going-away present for you.”

I always liked entering her house. It was full of some many colorful bits n bobs, from fantastically colored necklaces, scarves, hats and brooches she made by hand, to crazy-shaped glass vases, goblets, and dazzling mirrors of every size, each with three, four, or more sides. I was shocked by what I seen when I entered. It was empty. Shelf after shelf was completely empty. I felt a sadness hit me in my stomach.

“I have sent my belongings ahead,” Sootasense said. But I didn't respond. She touched my arm.

“Please Walter, sit down.” She gestured to a nearby chair.

I sat, still a little shaken. I looked around the house. “So, it's true. You are leaving. For good.”

She nodded. “It is time,” she said. I didn't know what that meant. She gave a smile. “Here, great Wizard, this is for you.” She picked up a small plain box from off a nearby shelf. I was sure the box wasn't there a moment ago, but such was the way of fairies. She handed me the box. “Open it,” she said.

I opened the box. Inside was a crystal ball. I lifted the ball out of the box. “Oh, a crystal ball, thank you,” I said. “That's ...very nice of you.” I already had six or seven crystal balls – two of which I had bought from Sootasense!

The fairy grinned. “Not a crystal ball. It's a memory ball. Close your eyes, rub your hand across it, then open your eyes,” she said quietly.

I did as she requested. When I opened my eyes I nearly dropped the ball. It was Saorcha. She was dancing and laughing across the village green. I remembered. It was four summers ago. At one of the village festivals. The Festival of Light. I stared at the image. It was as real as I could possibly have imagined.

“Now, close you eyes,” Sootasense said softly.

I didn't want to, but I did. The ball faded to black and so did Saorcha. Sootasense spoke again. “The ball holds many memories. As many as you hold.”

I had to choke back my tears. I forced myself to say something light, to ease my emotions. “I thought you fairies believed it was best to forget about the past?”

Sootasense grinned. “You're thinking of fools,” she laughed. Her face then became serious. “Honor those who have passed, Walter. They shall never die as long as your memory lives. But do not hold them prisoner, and do not let them imprison you.”

I walked with her to the front door. We embraced and I say my goodbyes. I watched her mount her small donkey. I watched her until she disappeared into the distance.

The box now sits above my work desk. It has been there for some years now. My new wife Laura, keeps it free from dust. I still open it, on occasion. Though now the occasions have grown less frequent. In some ways, the fools were right. We cannot live in the past.

But it is nice to visit, now and then.

Stuart Suffel is from Ireland. He writes short fiction and the longer version also. His favorite treat is chocolate sambuca ice cream. He tweets @stuartsuffel.
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Understanding Balance: A Fairy Godmother'd Perspective, By Alicia Cole



She was often tired. And the kitchen was sometimes
dirty. There'd be an unscoured pot, at the least. 
And, her husband, who I never met: he  was lazy, 
and louche,  and full of rum and vinegar.  
A sour combination.

Still, she gave well enough. When she wasn't
angry, or hurt, or mending. A fairy godmother
in pain is an evil thing indeed. Wands reverse.
Wands kill. Women don't do well under
a desperately heavy load.

I'm just a child and the man I'm to marry
has long hair and rides a white horse,
the way it always should be. She tuts over me.
Feeds me pork roast. Lets me steal an occasional
cherry tomato.

I'm just a child and the man I'm to marry
doesn't call often. He's a traveler. He's a roamer.
He's a healer. There's another who comes calling,
though, and when he does, this desperado, she 
sits me down, hands me a spoon,

and begins to speak. Spoons' concavity are good
for reviewing the echoes of a day. You see yourself,
a larger-nosed mirror of youth, a plump-cheeked
vixen, squalling, broken-toothed child. Spoons
are one of life's pleasures.

We talk through desperados. We talk through
insecurities. We talk through every trump
and tower and toffee in the whole damn deck.
And when we're done, I'm no longer in need
of concavity. I curl up in bed.

See horses. See men with long hair. See my fairy
godmother turning her wand the right way. See spring.
See summer. See childbearing time. See winter
melt away and it's cranky, clacking grief. See time.
And a long black cat

slowly slinking, past my fairy godmother. Through
doors less clanky and clacking than grief. To the other side
of time where everything really did happen. And has
become as hum as the tea kettle. And I do not fear
her blessings or wishes or pleas.

Alicia Cole lives and writes in Huntsville, AL.  She's the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press, and a visual artist.  You can find her at www.priestessandhierophant.com and www.facebook.com/AliciaColewriter.

Image by Arthur Rackham.
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11 Rules of Responsible Fairy Godparenting, By Jude Tulli


Welcome to Fairy Godparenting school. And congratulations on being accepted. That you’ve made it this far in the process to certification means one of two things:


1. You’re exceptionally giving and hard-working or

2. One or more of your ancestors were Fairy Godparents and you don’t know what you want to do with your life


I know that hardly sounds fair, but it’s the way life works. You need to know these things if you’re going to do any good as an FG. Let’s see…there are 1, 2, 3…oh, about 20 of you here today? Let me assure you, only one of you will graduate.

Don’t worry; we don’t use the word “flunk” here. Many of our dropouts become healers or royal consultants. You have to love FGing or you’ll simply burn out. I know Cinderella made it look easy, but honestly most of your protégés will disappoint you. Hers was truly the “Cinderella story” of Fairy Godparenting.

You’re probably wondering about it now more than ever so I’ll put the rumors to rest. YES, once upon a time, I was Cinderella’s FG. But let me assure you, she was one in a billion. The everyday experience of all FGs involves hefty doses of failure and frustration. Overeating is not actively discouraged as a coping mechanism. Which reminds me, FG and student dinner party Friday at 7:00. You’re all invited. There’ll be at least forty different kinds of cheeses! Bring your questions and real live FGs will regale you with their most colorful stories. Spoiler alert: most end in heartbreak.


Now before we get into our case studies, we need to start with the basics. There are 11 principles that guide everything we do as FGs. Actually there are 1,007, but like I said, we start with the basics. Plenty of time to look into a career in stage magic after the introductory class. I don’t want to scare you all away just yet. The school has to keep the lights on somehow and the queen won’t let us raise our tuition twentyfold.


In an order that makes sense to me but won’t mean much to you yet, here we go:

1. Beauty comes from within. You can’t project it where it doesn't already exist. A monster will only look more monstrous for your efforts no matter how hard you hit it with your magic wand.

2. Research, research, research. Watch how each potential protégé reacts to different situations. Does he or she give too much? Ask too little of others? Meet cruelty with generosity? Perfect. Don’t be creepy; just gather the relevant data.

3. Never FG for yourself. It’s not right and it won’t get you your heart’s desire. No matter how badly you want the Fairy Godfather of Lillington to notice you. He’ll just take one look at you in all your magnificence and say, “Broke rule number 3 again, did we?” 

4. You can’t FG for someone you already know. It just doesn’t work. Like the time my niece demanded an extension after midnight. It ended with a ruptured spleen and six months of bed rest. At least I finally learned how to knit. 

5. There are no small wands, only small FGs. It’s not how much magic you have; it’s what you do with it that counts. I once turned a frog into a prince just by asking if he really liked the taste of flies.

6. Expect nothing in return. Don’t even expect to feel good about yourself for helping. People’s propensity for self-sabotage will never cease to surprise you. Frogs’ too. I told him not to lick the princess’ eye but he just said, “Ribbit ribbit ribbit.” 

7. Grant their heart’s desire or nothing. You're not helping otherwise. If you gave Cinderella a hoard of gold she’d just let her step-family spend it all. The best gifts are non-transferable.

8. Magic is neither a toy nor a game. Don’t leave your wand lying around where an infant or toddler can get to it. And never drink and cast. Trust me; the ruptured spleen was nothing. 

9. Animal labor is not free. If you turn lizards into footmen, they charge by the hour. It comes out of your expense account at first, but once you go over your budget it comes out of your pocket. And yes, you have to pay them the same wages to wait around behind the scenes as you do for face time. As a side note, I don’t recommend using lizards for anything unless no other animals are available. They blend into their surroundings so well it’s terribly hard to find them when you need them.

10. It’s not about you. If you’re having fun as an FG, you’re doing it wrong. It’s not about you getting to go to that ball you missed out on when you were younger. Don’t grant what you would want. Grant what your protégé needs. Give what's right to give. From dress cuts to shoe styles. And glass slippers are no longer allowed. They conjure too much expectation. Not to mention the newer ones break all the time. Nothing spoils a budding romance quicker than high-pitched screams and bloody footprints. 

11. Exceptions are the exception. There's always an exception. But they’re called exceptions for a reason. They’re rare. Run your thoughts by a more experienced FG before you get creative, especially in your first hundred years of practice.


The clock striking noon means we’re done for today, so away with you before you turn into pumpkins. Just kidding! I’ll see you all tomorrow when we’ll cover the 12 basic tenets of FG magic and the 13 reasons magical deadlines can’t be negotiated. You’re also in for a treat: a former protégé of mine turned part-time FG will give a presentation and answer your questions. Hint: Her name sounds a bit like “mozzarella.”

Which reminds me, did I mention the dinner party Friday at 7:00? Feel free to bring your favorite cheese, as long as you bring enough for everyone!

Jude Tulli lives in the Sonoran Desert with his beloved wife and a small pride of cats. His fairy tale inspired works have appeared in Enchanted Conversation and Timeless Tales.

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The Crone in the Cornfield, By Kristen VanBlargan


Listen, child, and I’ll give you the tale you want. Yes, there will be a fairy godmother. But a love story? My dear, I can’t promise you that.

Once upon a time—that era deep in the caverns of your imagination—if you were to travel past vales and vineyards, through plains and pastures, you would find a kingdom nestled between the roaring currents of rivers and the sighing mists of mountains. In this land, the king and queen were beloved by all, for they ruled their people with just and generous hands.

But you’ve heard these stories before, and you know there must be a catch. No, the queen doesn’t die, but that’s a good guess. She had no child. Although she was still the most beautiful woman in the land, the queen had long since passed the days of her youth. She would smile and laugh among her people, but at night she wept at her barrenness. 

One day, her handmaiden saw the vestige of tears on her queen’s cheeks. “My queen, why do you cry?” she said. “You have been blessed with the fortune of a thousand moons and the joy of a thousand suns.” 

“O, I would give all of that for a child. My womb is empty, and the kingdom shall have no heir,” the queen said. 

The handmaiden’s voice sank to a whisper. “I have heard, Majesty, that there is a woman in the north who can help you. She speaks to spirits, she writes on leaves, she divines desires in dark caves. She has been said to grant wishes such as yours.” 

So the queen and the handmaiden departed on a horse-drawn carriage, and after days of traveling, they arrived at the edge of a vast cornfield. As they approached, a path appeared that led to a windowless cottage. The queen left the carriage and walked to the door while the handmaiden stayed behind out of fear. Before the queen’s hand reached the twisted iron knocker, the door swung open, creaking and quaking on its hinges. She crept into the cottage. 

Through the labyrinth of cobwebs stood a crone hunched over a vat, her back to the queen. “I have waited long for you,” the crone said as smoke enveloped her gray hair. 

“I have come to—”

“I know what you seek,” the crone said, turning around to reveal a face full of entrenched wrinkles. The crone, holding a goblet in her hands, slid towards the queen. “Your wish is not uncommon. I have granted it a thousand times, and I will grant it a thousand more.” She placed the goblet before the queen. “Drink, and you shall bear a child. You shall name him Lathe. He will bring you such joy as you have never known.”

Hearing this, the queen took the goblet in her hands. As she brought it to her lips, the crone whispered in her ear: “But there is a price. I will give you a child, and I will take him away. I will reclaim what is mine. Your sorrows will be multiplied; your tears will tumble numberless to the earth.”

For a moment, both were silent, and then the queen took her fill from the cup. 

**

No, we aren’t at the part with the fairy godmother yet. Be patient. We haven’t even gotten to the infant yet, mind you.

Nine months later, the queen gave birth to a son. The king looked with pride at his heir. He called him Lathe. 

The infant’s quiet smiles delighted the queen. Despite her newfound happiness, however, she was haunted by the crone’s words. Terrified, she confessed the curse to her husband. “Foolish woman!” he said. “Our son shall be a slave to a creature of the otherworld.” 

“I ask not for your forgiveness,” said the queen, “for I know that I do not deserve it. But please, protect our son. I cannot bear to lose him.” 

The king had a sorcerer place a spell on the palace that prevented all intruders from entering its walls. It was agreed that Lathe should never leave the palace, for if he did not know the temptations of the outside world, he would never desire to leave its sanctuary. 

Lathe spent his days in the southern turret, where his mother would visit and read him stories of heroes and faraway lands. He adored his mother’s company, but he was often lonely. The queen, seeing this, would bring him small figurines shaped like various beasts. In time, Lathe began to fashion creatures out of wood and paint landscapes on his walls. His room became a menagerie of eagles flying over canyons and stallions racing through fields. 

On his eighteenth birthday, his parents prepared a great feast for him. As he dressed for the celebration, he glanced out the narrow window of the turret, and beyond its walls stood a woman more beautiful than he had ever dreamed. Her alabaster limbs were long and supple, and her golden hair cascaded down the contours of her torso. 

(Why are the women always blonde, you ask? Why are they comely and lithe and lily-white? That is another beast. I will tell you when you are older.)

“Prince,” the woman said, her dulcet voice echoing up the long rows of stones that guarded the tower, “abandon your prison, and I shall show you the pleasures of the world. Feel the sun on your skin, taste the honey of the land. Come, meet me!” 

“But how?” he called. 

“Remove your majestic garments and wear your tunic so that you will pass unnoticed,” the woman said. “Make your way down the turret and into the banquet hall. The servants and guards are busying themselves with preparations. At the back of the kitchen is a small door, hidden behind shelves of bread, and through that door you shall find me. Make haste, for time is running out.”

The prince cast off his purple robes, flew down the winding flight of stairs, and burst into the kitchen. He pushed his way through the bustling servants and flung open the door. As the light of the sun pierced through the doorway, he shielded his eyes. 

The woman smiled. “You’ve returned to me.” She began to laugh when he stepped outside. As he drew closer, her laughs became cackles, and her golden locks fell off her head, revealing a mess of grey hair. The world around them dissolved, and he found himself inside the walls of a windowless cottage. 

**

Here is where the story really gets going. Hold your questions for now. You’ll thank me later.

A faint glow filled the stone crevices of Lathe’s cell. Apart from the cot upon which he lay, its only furnishing was a small table with a lantern. The lantern cast upon the wall silhouettes of the outside world: flickers of birds darting through a birch tree, corn swaying in the wind, rabbits weaving through the stalks. He stood to inspect these figures, but iron shackles restrained him.

The door of the cell flung open, and his chains dragged him forward. They led him through the cottage and its oddities: birds in an iron cage, butterflies pinned and mounted, a compendium of potions, bones that were bent and bowed, and a wall of clocks ticking and tocking in unison. As he arrived outside, his chains rooted themselves in the soil.

In front of him stood the crone, who stared out into the cornfield. She turned towards him, handed him a satchel containing a sickle, and said:

Swing the sickle that you wield
And clear the stalks from my cornfield.
When no more husks are in the lea,
Then you shall once again be free.


With these words she vanished. Lathe picked up the sickle and began to slash with all his might. His chains extended as he wove through the field, but they pulled him back again when he reached the edge. As the sun set, the chains dragged him to the cell, where he fell into a deep slumber. 

Lathe was hopeful when he awoke to the flickering of the magic lantern. But when he emerged, his heart sunk. The corn he had cut down the day before had already grown back. “I must cut down the entire field today or else my work will be in vain,” he thought.

As twilight filled the horizon, though, the field still bristled with swaying stalks. He repeated this task day after day, each time clearing more of the field, but never enough to earn his freedom. Home seemed no more real to him now than the silhouettes of the magic lantern.

One day, having abandoned hope of ever completing his task, Lathe ran to the edge of the field. He pulled against his shackles until they cut into his wrists, but they did not budge. He sat down, leaned against a birch tree, and began to sob.

Lathe, a voice said, do not be sad, for hope is not lost. Lathe looked up at the birch’s honey-colored leaves and realized that the voice came from the tree.

“But no matter how much corn I cut down, it always grows back,” Lathe said. “I shall never see my family again.”

The birch bent its branches down. “I can help you. My name is Ivory. I am your fairy godmother, but the crone turned me into a tree before you were born. I have yet a little fairy magic in me. Though it is not enough to free myself, with your help we can escape.” Ivory’s leaves swayed in the wind. “You must be brave,” she said, “and careful not to let the crone catch you. Inside the cottage, there is a clock made of bronze. Bring me this clock.”

The next day, Lathe spotted the bronze clock as the chains dragged him past the wall. He took the clock, slipped it into his satchel, and brought it to Ivory. She took the clock into her branches and said, “Among the crone’s potions, there is a bottle made of silver. Bring me this bottle.” 

The next day, Lathe spotted the silver bottle as the chains dragged him past the crone’s potions. He took the bottle, slipped it into his satchel, and brought it to Ivory. She took the bottle up into her branches and said, “Next to the birdcage, there is a spool of rope made of gold. Bring me this rope.”

The next day, Lathe spotted the golden rope as the chains dragged him past the birdcage. He took the rope, slipped it into his satchel, and brought it to Ivory. She took the rope up into her branches and said, “You must weave this rope in a spiral through the field.” Lathe unspooled the golden rope as he circled through the field and back.

Ivory bent down her branches and handed him the clock. “Inside this clock there are many gears,” she said. “Take these gears and slip them onto the end of the rope.” Lathe’s nimble hands took apart the clock. As he arranged the bronze gears in a row on the rope, each gear grew larger, turned on its side, and wound upon the one in front of it. The gears hurtled across the rope and throughout the field, cutting down the corn.

When the last stalk fell, Ivory tipped over the silver bottle. Water flowed and flowed from it, filling the field. The flood swept the cottage away, and the crone’s cackles faded into the distance.

With the curse broken, Lathe’s shackles shattered and Ivory became a fairy once again.

**

What happens next, you ask? You want a love story. We can try that out.

Let’s switch to the present tense. Lathe and Ivory live happily ever after. They return to Lathe’s kingdom, where the king and queen rejoice. The sun bleaches the crone’s bones in the barren field. 

With her fairy magic restored, Ivory shows Lathe the world, its hues and whispers and sighs. She dances barefoot in brooks, her honey-colored hair streaming through the air. Lathe has never seen anything so beautiful.

In time, they are wed. Lathe ascends to the throne, where he rules with wisdom and quiet dignity. His fairy-turned-wife is never far from his side, and her laughter enchants the people of the land. She bears him three children, who are filled with fay curiosity. Through the years, Lathe and Ivory regale others with tales of their heroic escape.

They sit by the fire, Ivory’s now-gray head upon Lathe’s shoulder, and fall asleep.

Sweet, yes, but it doesn’t work. Fairy godmothers aren’t meant to be lovers. You see that now.

Let’s try a tragic ending instead. After all, tropes are meant to be broken, aren’t they?

Lathe and Ivory have been through the gates of Hell, and they have returned.

But the ghosts of the field haunt Ivory’s dreams. She fears the crone is still alive, her magic stronger than ever. As she settles into sleep, she feels the bark ascending her arms and wakes in paralyzed terror. The light of her magic begins to dim.

Lathe, who has spent his life with books for company, does not know what to do with this strange creature, this feverish fairy. One day, he locks the door to his turret. Ivory pounds and pounds until crimson trickles down her pale limbs, but the door does not open. She returns to her fairy sisters, and Lathe returns to solitude.

They do not speak of their time together again.

That doesn’t satisfy you either. You say you want the truth. Child, the truth doesn’t make for a good story. It is too wayward, too jagged. When we try to box it up, it escapes at the seams.

But if you must know the truth, then here it is: Lathe and Ivory go on. They dream, they wake, they breathe—sometimes together, but more often apart. The crone and the boundless fields fade to gray silhouettes flickering on the balusters of memory.

They laugh, they cry, they hope. The world unfolds upon the horizon.

They live.

Kristen VanBlargan lives in New Haven, Connecticut. Her fiction has appeared in Timeless Tales and is forthcoming inTailfins & Sealskins: An Anthology of Water Lore (Three Drops Press). She blogs at https://kristenvanb.wordpress.com/

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