August 17, 2017

Writers on Writing interviews author Erin Wyble Newcomb

for author
Erin Wyble Newcomb

EC's The Emperor's New Clothes Issue will be out the last week of this month and to get ready for it, we're interviewing authors who have stories and poems in the upcoming issue. This time, we've asked Erin Wyble Newcomb some questions about her writing process. Look for her original poem, "Nude is the New Black," (an inventive twist on the Emperor's New Clothes idea) in the issue when it comes out.

1.  What fairy tale resonated the most with you growing up?
I’ve always been drawn to Little Red Riding Hood. There are so many versions of that story from cultures all over the world. It covers some essential elements of human development—finding a path in the world, identifying predators in our midst, learning to trust our instincts. It’s a story that seems so simple on its surface, but there are so many ways to re-imagine it, so many perspectives to consider. Maybe there’s a connection to my childhood of running on any forested trail I could find (a habit, like reading fairy tales, which I’ve maintained in adulthood). Anything can happen in the woods. That’s where we find our enemies as well as our courage.

Art by Warwick Goble

2.   Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
For me, this question feels hilarious. Between my writing and teaching, I work multiple jobs, but the majority of my day is spent caring for my daughters, whom I homeschool. At this point in my life, my children are my main priority, and my day is structured around them. Every day is different. By nature, I am a morning person who’d prefer to sit down with my coffee and my breakfast and my cat and not interact with other humans for a while. That’s just not my reality right now, so my writing is sprinkled throughout the day and the week. I struggle to write in the evenings, so I typically avoid that because I end up feeling frustrated and stuck; it’s just not a productive time for me. Unfortunately, in my life, “evening” feels like 7:30pm, so I’ve got to draft earlier in the day. Often, I use the evenings to read or talk with my husband about ideas and issues with my writing. The idea of having special time dedicated to writing feels like a tremendous privilege to me, but, then again, the time I get with my children is a privilege, too.

3.   Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I never start writing without an outline, at least in my mind. Much of my process is time spent ruminating; I think best on my feet (while I’m running or walking), and blank pages make me anxious, so I typically don’t sit down to write unless I’m ready to draft something. Then I always let that sit for at least a day, preferably more, so that I can return to it with fresh eyes and see where I want to edit and revise. I am trained as a writing teacher, and I really do follow the process that I encourage my students to follow. I want to be flexible about possibilities that arise during the actual drafting process, but, by and large, I am a girl with a plan.

READ "The House That Jack Built"
(a story by Erin that appeared in a previous issue of EC)
CLICK on the picture below:

You can find out more about
Erin Wyble Newcomb
at her website
PHD Mama
Follow her on
Twitter @ErinWyble

Interview by Amanda Bergloff

read more " Writers on Writing interviews author Erin Wyble Newcomb "

August 16, 2017

Fairy Tale Roundup Surprise

This month's Fairy Tale Roundup, the newsletter for EC and other fairy-tale-related sites offers some great reading and writing opportunities. And I have popped an announcement in it that both new fairy tale fans and writers might find pretty exciting.

This news will hopefully inspire fans of a particular genre of classic stories featuring one of the most bizarre yet fabulous characters in all of fairy tales. This character has never been a theme on EC.

I'll be making a full announcement here later this month. But the identity of the character and the project type is only available as of now in this month's FTR. You can sign up by filling in the pop-up form on mobile view or desktop. Or, look for "Subscribe to Fairy Tale Roundup" on the roll-down menu on your mobile view or at the top of the page on the desktop view.

Image by Kay Nielsen.
read more " Fairy Tale Roundup Surprise "

August 15, 2017

Submissions Call from WWP, Chance to Help

Editor's note: World Weaver Press Editor in Chief, Sarena Ulibarri, has issued a call for submissions, with the details below. But I especially want EC readers to click on the Kickstarter link below. Any donation would be appreciated. I know "Solar Punk" fiction is not what EC publishes, but it does sound intriguing, and World Weaver Press is my publisher! KW


Anthologist: Sarena Ulibarri
Open for Submissions: August 15, 2017 - November 15, 2017
Expected Publication: Summer 2018
Story Length: up to 8,000 words
Payment: TBD (Determined by Kickstarter success.)

Solarpunk is a type of eco-conscious science fiction that imagines an optimistic future founded on renewable energies. It might take place in a wind-powered skyscraper or on a solar-powered robotic farm. Often coupled with an art nouveau aesthetic, and always inclusive and diverse, solarpunk stories show the ways we have adapted to climate change, or the ways we have overcome it.
For this anthology, I want to see solarpunk summers. Show me futuristic stories that take place in summer, whether that involves a summer night in a rooftop garden, or characters adapting to extreme heat and weather, or an annual migration to cooler lands. Keep it planet-based (Earth or other), and optimistic. Solarpunk worlds aren’t necessarily utopias, but they definitely aren’t dystopias.

We're a northern hemisphere publisher, but southern hemisphere summers are also welcome!
Need inspiration? Read New York 2140 or Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, or Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology.

Submission Method: Send your story as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment to solarpunk[at]worldweaverpress[dot]com with Submission: [story title] in the subject line. Please include a brief cover letter, but DO NOT summarize your story in the cover letter.

Simultaneous submissions = okay. Multiple submissions = no.

About the Anthologist: Sarena Ulibarri attended the Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers' Workshop in 2014 and earned an MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her fiction has appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed and Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, as well as anthologies such as Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures and Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction. She has been Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press since 2016, and edited the anthology Speculative Story Bites.
read more " Submissions Call from WWP, Chance to Help "

August 10, 2017

Writers on Writing featuring author Gerri Leen

for author
Gerri Leen

EC's The Emperor's New Clothes Issue will be out the last week of this month and to get ready for it, we've asked author, Gerri Leen, (whose story, "My Husband, the Emperor." will be featured in the issue) some questions for our new Writers on Writing series. We hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit about Gerri and get some insight into her creative process. (Note from Kate: Amanda, art director and contributing editor, will chat with two other authors from the upcoming issue over the next two weeks. The rest will be interviewed after the issue is published.)

1. What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
My favorite fairy tale is probably "The Princess and the Pea" because I suffer from chronic migraines that make all my senses more acute (to the point of discomfort).  When I'm annoyed by a sound others don't hear, getting a headache from fragrance in a product others think is scent free, or scrambling for my sunglasses on an overcast day because the light is still too bright, I think of the princess and her ability to feel the pea and smile.

Art by Gordon Robinson

2. What was your first published work, and when was it published?
My first published work was "Obligations Discharged," a short story I wrote for the Star Trek Strange New Worlds VII contest anthology (Pocket Books, 2004).  Not only did this experience allow me to write in a world I loved (and would write in again, I also made it into the ninth and tenth volumes), but it allowed me to understand first hand the difference between writing media tie-in (aka "Work for Hire") material and writing original stories.

3. What author's work do you admire, and how has that influenced you in your own writing?
There are so many writers I admire and have tried to emulate.  I'd say the ones who really stand out are in two camps. People like Rod Serling (and his fabulous stable of Twilight Zone writers) and Jeffrey Archer, who have taken the idea of the "twist" and turned it into an art form, and writers like Stewart O'Nan or Connie Willis, who have shown me how versatile one person can be (and who have taken risks in pursuing that versatility--not everything works, and that's okay).  I absolutely love to employ the twist if I can--to the point where, when I started writing romance, I felt it was a good idea to use a pen name as brand assurance so readers would know that with Kim Strattford you'll get the happy ending and not the cruel twist that Gerri Leen loves to do.  As far as versatility, I've been published in poetry and prose--in fantasy, horror, science fiction, romance (both with the pen name and less happy stories without), crime, and mainstream. I haven't done a straight up mystery yet, but an urban fantasy novel I'm working on has a mystery at the heart of it.  I guess that just leaves thrillers--not sure I'll ever get to those, but my muse can surprise me.

READ a story by Gerri that appeared in a previous issue of EC by clicking on the picture below:

You can find out more about
at her websites 
Follow her on Twitter  
and on Facebook here

Interview by Amanda Bergloff

read more " Writers on Writing featuring author Gerri Leen "

August 6, 2017

Chosen Authors for 'The Emperor's New Clothes' Issue

Amanda and I are happy to present the authors for "The Emperor's New Clothes Issue." It's a strong field, and we look forward to presenting it to you during the last week of the month.

It was tough to make choices this time, because we easily could have used at least three more submissions in our next issue, but we had to cull, so we did..

Here are the chosen authors:
Gerri Leen
Sarah Deeming
Erin Wyble Newcomb
Rebecca Buchanan 
Deborah Beauchamp
Nancy Brewka-Clark
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Amelia Gorman

We're so pleased to be featuring this works on EC! 

Here's a non-related image by Charles Folkard just for fun:

read more " Chosen Authors for 'The Emperor's New Clothes' Issue "

July 29, 2017

'Emperor's New Clothes' Window Closes Sunday

Submissions for "The Emperor's New Clothes" Issue are due no later than 11:59 p.m., EST, Sunday, July 30.

Here's some inspiration, by Milo Winter:

read more " 'Emperor's New Clothes' Window Closes Sunday "

July 26, 2017

Magic for Unlucky Girls Book Review by Amanda Bergloff

My love of fairy tales started when I was 4 years old and continues to this day. When I came across the book, Magic for Unlucky Girls, I was interested in seeing if something new would be brought to the genre in this collection of fourteen stories by author, A.A. Balaskovits.

This book did not fit in with the preconceived notions I had after looking at the table of contents. Reading it, I felt as if I had “fairy tale vertigo” due to the dizzying way Balaskovits reimagined familiar tales (as well as folklore and urban legends) into truly unique visions by turning them upside down and inside out.

This is not a book for children, as these stories are unapologetic in their strangeness, wild beauty, and violence. Adult themes and consequences, both good and bad, are incorporated in the fates of the female characters in the various tales.

Here you will find...a princess that finally wakes to a reality that isn’t better than her dreams...a modern small town Apple Queen whose fading beauty makes her treacherous to boys and 507 lemons can be used to keep suitors at bay...a queen whose hair lures and tricks an obsessive alchemist, stuck in suburbia, who inadvertently transforms the mundane into the extraordinary...and mermaids who, because of their unbreakable sisterly bond, will do anything to protect one another.

“The Ibex Girl of Qumran” was a standout to me with its surrealistic mix of folklore woven into a modern setting. Another standout was the heartbreaking and tragic story of Salter in, “Bloody Mary,” which riffs on the urban legend I remember from my own school days.

Some stories were clear on what original classical inspiration Balaskovits drew from, while others were very abstract, like a jazz melody, where the music deviates from the central theme, yet the melody is still present in the background. The main themes of fairy tales were always playing behind the stories even if I didn’t know exactly where they initially came from.

Magic for Unlucky Girls is an example of why fairy tales and folklore remain relevant today because they speak to the emotions that are present in our everyday experiences. Love, fear, anxiety, hope, survival, and triumph are forever re-told through this literary medium where authors, such as Balaskovits, can still create unusual and unique visions of stories that audiences can interpret, enjoy, and make their own each time they read them.

“Our children will make up their own endings, whether the girl becomes a witch or opens a cupcake shop or builds a bridge the color of gold. But we hope, in one of their minds, our beast-girl will find her gutted mother wolf, and using her hair as thread and a curved toenail as a needle, begin to sew.”
---from the story, “Three Times Red”

Review by Amanda Bergloff

Here's an 
Recently, EC contacted author,
A.A. Balaskovits,
to ask her 3 QUESTIONS for our feature:
1. What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
This answer changes a lot. My childhood favorite is probably Red Riding Hood, because it was one of the few I encountered (besides Hansel and Gretel) where the female protagonist was not a princess - just a regular girl going about her business and running into trouble. Now that I am older, I have soft spots for Bluebeard, because it's really the tale of Bluebeard's last wife, and The Handless Maiden, because there's this lovely image of the maiden stretching her neck out like a giraffe to eat from a fruit tree, and some prince thinks she's an angel because...angels and giraffes are the same creatures. There's a small gem I found called, How Some Children Played at Slaughtering, which is unique in the Grimms in that it doesn't really have any magical qualities at all, just kids being violent and adults not really getting it.

2. As an author, do you have a set writing routine?
Not especially. I wish I was better at routines, but life seems to get in the way. I try to write every day, and some days are more productive than others. I can go weeks with only writing down a few sentences about where I think a story is going, and then I sit and chew on them to understand if they are the correct idea or not. I have found that it's better for me to work on a few things at once, so when I get frustrated on one piece, I have something else to work on, so I don't get bogged down in one world.

3. What tip would you give other writers just starting out about getting published?
That rejection is common-place, and you should not take it personally. Beyond that, revise your work. Once you finish a piece, try setting it aside for a week or two and then come back to it with fresh eyes. A lot of writing is in re-writing, and distance helps.
You can find out more about
A.A. Balaskovits here,
and follow her on Twitter @AABalaskovits

read more " Magic for Unlucky Girls Book Review by Amanda Bergloff "

July 14, 2017

Andersen's 'The Emperor's New Clothes'

Editor's note: The next issue of EC will feature stories and poems inspired by "The Emperor's New Clothes," by Hans Christian Andersen. The story is below, but I have a few observations to make. So, if you are unfamiliar with the story, read it, then come back up here if you are interested in my remarks on the story. The guidelines for submission, which you should read very closely, are HERE:

What fairy tale could better reflect the times in which we live? "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a funny story about a powerful fool obsessed with showing off his finery, charlatans who know a dupe when they see one, fear and sychophancy, and finally, the truth.

There are a number of points of view a submission may feature--from the king to the weavers to the boy who reveals what is not, in fact, hidden. And then there are the honest ministers who heretofore have served the their ruler well, but who doubt their own eyes and fitness to be counselors because they can't see any cloth or clothes. But will they admit the truth? No. Because only "fools" could fail to see the magnificent attire the "weavers" produced for the emperor.

The emperor himself can't see the new clothes, and momentarily doubts his fitness to serve his people. But he's not very smart, so he dons the clothes--and you know the rest. The story shows how important clothes and appearance can be to all of us, and how idiotic focusing on them often is.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" gives its readers the chance reflect on how easily we all are fooled by appearances, and how unquestioning subservience to an unfit ruler leads to embarrassment and failure.

The tale is below. The illustration is by Harry Clarke.


Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room."

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.

They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better."

So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.

"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.

Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth."

"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers.

"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."

"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.

The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything.

"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.

"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."

All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.

"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.

"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!

Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's verypretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver."

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him."

Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine."

"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.

"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror."

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."

Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside."

"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on."

"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.

read more " Andersen's 'The Emperor's New Clothes' "

July 10, 2017

Submissions Open - The Emperor's New Clothes

Submissions are open 
for EC's The Emperor's New Clothes Issue.
Submit your original stories and poems, using this classic fairy tale as your theme, before the July 30th deadline.

Check out our guidelines HERE 

...And here's some art from several wonderful "Golden Age of Illustration" artists to inspire your stories!

Art by Margaret Tarrant

Art by Anne Anderson

Art by Edmund Dulac

Art by Harry Clarke

read more " Submissions Open - The Emperor's New Clothes "

July 5, 2017

Window is Open for 'The Emperor's New Clothes'

Hi All!
If you celebrated the Fourth of July, I hope you had a great time! We sure did.

The window for "The Emperor's New Clothes" edition is open and will remain open until July 30, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

I ask that authors read published work on EC before submitting. Also, a two-sentence bio in the third person is really helpful. And please name your work. It takes extra time for Amanda and I to deal with when we accept a work without a title.

Here are the guidelines:

Image by Milo Winter.

read more " Window is Open for 'The Emperor's New Clothes' "

June 28, 2017

Table of Contents, 'Donkeyskin' Issue

What an issue we have this month! Lots of poems and some stories--all intriguing and entertaining. As usual, the competition was fierce, and it was clear that the challenging original story really made our final contributors use their imagination and writing skills.

All of the fabulous art was created by Amanda Bergloff, contributing editor and art director here at EC.

Here's the table of contents:

Knight of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, Angie Dickinson

Hide, Lissa Sloan

Worth the Wait, Jeana Jorgensen

Courage's Lament, Cara L. McKee

Boyskin, Dusty Thorne

Dishwater Dreaming, Debby Zigenis-Lowery

The Swamp King, Laura Diaz de Arce

With Diamond Dress, Michael Delaney
read more " Table of Contents, 'Donkeyskin' Issue "

Knight of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, By Angie Dickinson

(Based on "Cat-skin," by the Brothers Grimm.)

The tales are never as simple as they seem. My mother’s ending was unhappy, contrary to popular belief, and I have been forced to become my own fairy godmother. Shocking, I know, but there hasn’t been a real fairy godmother in these parts since the days of my great-grandmother. I’ve been told she was the last.

These days, a fairy godmother of one’s own would be very useful, for we have a dangerously mad king. This could be considered an advantage, if you happened to be one of the greedy old lords who pulled the strings behind the throne, awkwardly lifting the limp, royal fingers to sign decrees with an ignorant and complacent scrawl. If you kept the vacant fool happy in his whims, why then, the land would be yours to rule, as a royal advisor with the heart of a tyrant.

What, after all, was the harm in executing all the millers in the kingdom? They could be replaced, and in return, your pockets were lined by the tax reforms that the king blithely signed in your favor. Or, so what if the king demanded that nothing but jelly rolls be served at breakfast, lest the entire kitchen staff face the axe? Jelly rolls became tiresome, but laws were being rewritten, and the trio of trusted advisors were fast becoming the most powerful men in the land.

And so what if the king had a mind to marry his own daughter? She was the mirror image of her mother, taken by a fever so many years past, and the king cared nothing for the new highway tax, so long as he could have his long-dead wife returned to him.

In this particular way, if you happened to be the daughter in question, raised in a convent and recently reintroduced at court, it was largely to your disadvantage to have a mad king, and father.

My mother was a miller’s daughter, you see, and the imp that made her queen flew into such a blood-red rage when he was denied me, my mother’s firstborn, that he struck my father with madness and my mother with a deadly fever on his way to hell.

I knew to expect something awful when the sisters at the convent told me I was summoned to court. In fact, they had been using their own skills and knowledge of fairy ways to reinforce my inherited magic and prepare me to protect myself. Nevertheless, I had not expected this.

The horror was undisguised on my face as the most withered and wretched of the greedy advisors, Lord Rufin, declared my fate.

“You shall never have a child by him, we will take measures,” he said, patting my hand with his paper-dry one. Of course, not. The beauty of granting the king this whim is that the royal line would end with me, leaving the advisors free to select their next puppet. They likely would sentence my father and me with incest and execute us directly following the wedding. The reassuring lord made no mention of changing our kingdom’s laws to satisfy this whim of my father’s.

There was not a moment to lose if I was to survive this.

I took steps to ensure that I would be working with the best ingredients. I demanded three ballgowns be presented me as a bridal gift. One, made of tempered silver threads and set with moonstones. Another, gold threads. Simple enough, our vaults had been overflowing with gold threads since my mother arrived. The last one was trickier and took longer to acquire, but the lords went to great lengths to please my father. It was woven with literal starlight. The peddlers from far lands carry the most exotic things, and through my amateur magic I verified the authenticity of these shining threads.

A month before the wedding, I was poring over the gowns in an attempt to awaken my brain and figure out how best to use the powerful properties, when someone pounded on my door. I opened it, and a guard pushed me roughly aside as he entered, his arms full of dead animals. He was followed by another guard, and another. Finally, Lord Rufin entered. He smirked as the guards, one by one, dumped their grisly armloads of bloody carcasses on my bed. They piled them on top the gowns.

“What is this?” I finally gasped, choking through the heavy stench.

“Another wedding gift, from your father,” Lord Rufin responded silkily. “He thought you would appreciate one of each animal in the kingdom to be hunted for your enjoyment. We thought it best to indulge him. He means well.” He could not hide his glee behind the thin fa├žade of compassion. He gestured for the guards to precede him out of the room, then turned to me once more when we were alone.

“One more thing. You may as well make one of those gowns your trousseau, for there has been a change of plans. Your wedding will take place tomorrow.”

“Another whim of my father’s?” I spat, my chest tightening.

“Oh no.” His pale, watery eyes were unblinking. “No, we felt this was the best course.” He dropped something at my feet. It was a fox with a broken neck.

I knelt down and gently scooped up the still-warm, soft body of the small fox as Lord Rufin swept from the room. My tears froze in my eyes and I smiled. I needed to work quickly.


Our land is imbued with powerful magic. Everything serves a unique purpose, if you know how to use it.

With a speed born of desperation, I fashioned the cloak. I constructed it of fur, a bit from every animal in the kingdom. My heart broke as I sifted through the remains of the creatures, and I blessed each of them for their gift to me. I harnessed the powerful combination of magical properties and wove them together to suit my need. The cloak would conceal my identity, and give me the appearance of anyone I chose. There would be no need to disguise my face with ashes, or steal the apparel of a servant. I could be anyone.

I worked feverishly as dawn broke, and the morning light illuminated the ravaged, bloody scene of my chamber. Three of the woodland creatures held a walnut in their cheeks, and I took each of these and spelled their interiors to expand. Holding my breath, I fed the fabric of the golden gown into the spelled walnut, gently, until it was completely concealed within. I heard footsteps in the corridor, and crammed the others into their shells hastily.

Someone tapped gently on my door. I stuffed the walnuts into my pocket and flung the cloak over myself. The handle began to turn. I ran to my dressing table and scooped up my mother’s ring: the emerald that my father gave her as a wedding gift before his madness took him.

The door swung open. A maid entered, followed closely by Lord Rufin. I closed my eyes, and envisioned another of my lady’s maids, then opened them again.

“Where is she?” Rufin asked, glancing at me.

I bobbed a curtsy.

“She said she fancied a walk in the garden before breakfast, my lord,” I answered.

“Did she, indeed,” Lord Rufin sneered. “Clean this up, you two.” He strode out of the room.

The other maid glanced at me, then looked around the room. “What was she doing in here?” she asked in disgust.

“I’ll fetch a bucket,” I said.


It took me no time at all to leave the castle grounds. The cloak allowed me to appear as a servant or guard to every person I passed. Once I reached the gates into the city, I assumed the form of an old beggar woman, and hurried, unnoticed, through the streets.

It took me the rest of the day to reach the edge of the city. Guards barreled about in a panic, which likely signified that my flight had been discovered. They jostled me a few times in their haste, but were no threat to me.

I managed to make my way out of the city and into a neighboring village. I grew weak from the journey, and I knew that I had drained much of my magic while making the cloak. I needed rest to restore it.

I found work at a few rich homes and inns, scrubbing and sweeping the hearths for meager wages. Eventually, I felt my magic returning, but at an achingly slow pace. I kept it in reserve, rather than using it to deflect the innkeepers’ backhands, or the cooks’ smacks, or to heal the sores that opened on my fingers as I scrubbed the skin clean off them. I grew heartily tired of this, but over time my strength and magic were nearly restored. I hoped to return home someday when my power had grown, to take up my great-grandmother’s work and save others from the evil that ruled my kingdom.

The shouts of a town crier, who tore through the streets shrieking the news, froze my blood and changed my plans. My king was dead.

I fell to the cold ground, heedless of the shouts around me, and grieved for my father, for he was never my enemy. I barely knew the poor man, and he thought I was my mother. I knew that I was not free. If his advisors ever found me, they would kill me quietly.

“The princess, too! Took her own life, she did!” the crier shouted. “No blood heir remaining!”

The next king would be chosen via tournament. Of course, I knew he’d already been selected – groomed, or ensorcelled, doubtless, to be the malleable toy of the lords. The tournament would be held immediately, three days of fighting, accompanied by a masquerade ball each night. There would be no time of mourning for my father, or for me.

My magic was nearly at full strength, fuller now for all that I’d endured. I knew what I needed to do.

I left the village in the night and made my way back through the anxious city to my father’s castle. To my castle. I constructed a tent alongside those of the many travelers who arrived for the event.

The first ball was held the night before the tournament. With my heart pounding and fingers trembling, I took my golden dress out of its walnut shell, and shook it out. It was as bright as the sun. I washed my face and shining hair, and fashioned a mask out of golden wheat and violets.

The ballroom was bright and loud with revelry, and I danced merrily, keeping far away from the lords, lest they recognize my gown. I found the chosen champion easily, a strapping, young beast of a man. I sensed the mark of sorcery upon him, and knew that he was bewitched to do as he was bidden – probably to win at any cost. Magic radiated from the sword at his hip, as well. Nevertheless, his good nature shone through when I danced with him, and he seemed awfully sorry to see me leave.

The tournament would begin at dawn, but I had too much work to do to sleep. Throughout the night, I worked enchantments over my glittering gown, until it was not a gown at all. I was ready when the time came.

I retrieved my own horse from the stables, and rode onto the jousting field when my name was called. I kept my visor down, and used a name I created for myself: The Knight of the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Golden armor might be a bit ostentatious, but it would have to do.

Using every speck of magical fury that I could access, to make up for my lack of experience, I managed to unseat enough knights to advance to the next day’s melee round. The spectators seemed to enjoy the golden knight, for their cries grew louder with each victory I won.

I swirled my animal skin cloak over my shoulders the moment I rode off the field, and slipped away, unrecognized, from the seething crowd and harried guards.

I wore my silver gown to the ball that night. The crowd was abuzz with gossip of the day’s champion, and I knew I must be careful not to be noticed. The young man I met the night before was swift to find me. I adjusted my grass and snowbell-woven mask nervously, but could not suppress a smile at his enthusiasm. He said his name was Corin, and he made no mention of the many knights he himself unseated. I sensed a heavier magic upon him than before, and knew that I would have to fight even harder tomorrow.

I worked through the night yet again. I was delighted with the liquid magic that emanated from the silver in my gown, and the armor I created was truly striking to behold.

The next day was bright and heaving with energy, and the melee was terrifying. It was every knight for himself as we attempted to unseat one another in a frenzied battle of clubs. The crowd began to chant my title. I saw Corin, the lord’s champion, beating knights down with fervor. There was a glazed sort of confusion in his eyes, and he fought like a man possessed. In the end, he and I were among the final five to make it through the round. I glanced through my visor at the lords, high in their canopied box, and saw that they were infuriated that I, the crowd’s favorite, had advanced. I feared for their champion.

 I slept through the day, but was still exhausted by nightfall. I put on my gown of starlight and stood on the hillside outside the castle. As the heavens shone down over me, I felt the very light of the star-threads in my gown soaking into me, feeding my magic and renewing my strength. With renewed purpose, I ran down the hill and strode into the ballroom.

Corin found me immediately, and begged for a dance. I clasped his hand, and felt the hot fever of heavy enchantment over him. The lords, so desperate for their champion to succeed, might just kill him in the process. I would have to be his fairy godmother, as well as my own.

“Sit with me?” he asked hopefully as the banquet was laid out. I noted the eagle eye of Lord Rufin upon me, but I sat. I felt the lord’s gaze, and a buzzing filled my ears, and my head began to pound as he directed a silent enchantment at me. I was certain, then, that he was the one holding Corin captive to his sorcery. I whispered fiercely over my mother’s emerald ring, and left my seat, approaching Lord Rufin. His mouth dropped open as I leaned in close.

Your sins will find you, murderer,” I hissed into his face. His concentration faltered, and the buzzing in my ears stopped. While his pale eyes were on mine, I dropped my ring into his soup.

That night, I stole a sword from one of the defeated knights’ tents, and infused it with a measure of magic. I wondered if it would be enough when I faced Corin. His spelled sword and bewitched state could mean the death of me, and him, if the enchantment did not break soon. Again, I worked feverishly through the night. The starlight proved to be a more rebellious material, but finally, as dawn lifted the night away, my shimmering armor was complete. I steadied myself, and approached the combat grounds.

A larger crowd than ever before teemed around the field, from neighboring kingdoms as well as my own. There were two knights I needed to defeat before I faced Corin. I battled fiercely in the blazing sun, and emerged the victor, to the raucous joy of my people. I fought back tears as their love washed over me.

No knights remained except for Corin. I glanced up at Rufin, white and still as a statue in his box. I took a deep breath as Corin faced me. He charged suddenly, ferociously, his eyes gleaming beneath his visor. I raised my sword, and met his in a ground-shuddering clash that vibrated painfully through my bones. As violently as he’d attacked, he wheeled back, and flung his helmet to the ground, shaking his head. He threw his sword at my feet.

“I don’t want to be king,” he ground out. I sensed the sorcery draining out of him.

He looked up at the lords in fury, and I followed his gaze. Lord Rufin, his body and magic now clearly weakened from the poisonous spell on my ring, stood and tottered forward, hands outstretched. He swayed, and toppled from the balcony of the scaffolding.

His weak-chinned comrades stared at the broken body in fear as the crowd began to rustle. I took a deep breath, and pulled off my helmet. My hair spilled out over my starlight armor. The silence throughout the grounds felt full and ominous.

Corin’s face split into a grin, and he clasped my hand, then raised my sword arm up over my head. We faced the crowd. They were silent as the wind howled around me. Then a courtier stood up and shouted, “It’s the princess! She’s alive!”

The silence broke like the rushing of a waterfall crashing over a boulder. “Long live the queen! Long live the queen!” my people bellowed, rushing into the ring to embrace me. I looked up into the box and saw that the remaining lords were restrained by the firm grasp of the guards, who saluted me.

My heart felt full to bursting as my people knelt and cheered. They welcomed me home, and I would look after them, always.

Angie received a B.A. in English Literature from Spring Arbor University, and has been writing for her own enjoyment for many years. She has been passionate about fairy tales in their various forms for as long as she can remember.
read more " Knight of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, By Angie Dickinson "