Monday, November 30, 2015

The Erl King

"My son, say why you are hiding your face?"
"Oh father, the Erl King's coming apace,
The Erl King's here with his train and crown."
"My son, the fog moves up and down."

"Oh come, my darling, oh come with me!
Such good care my daughters will take of thee.
My daughters will dance about thee in a ring,
Will rock thee to sleep and will prettily sing."

"I love thee, thy beauty I covet and choose,
Be willing, my child or force I shall use."
"My father, my father, he seizes me fast.
For sorely the Erl King has hurt me at last."

The father now gallops, with terror half wild.
He grasps in his arms the poor, shuddering child.
He reaches his courtyard with toil and dread--
The child in his arms he finds motionless, dead."

The famous poem by the German writer Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe depicts a child and his father riding through the woods as a bogey man whispers to the child, promising to take him to a wonderful land, to be cared for by his beautiful daughters. As with most adults in a tale told from a child's POV, the parent doesn't believe the child until it's too late.

The Erl King has been featured in Holly Black's The Darkest Part of the Forest, in Raymond E. Feist's horrifying Faerie Tale, and in Angela Carter's 'The Erl King' and Elizabeth Hand's short story 'The Erl-King.' Anyone who's ever been in a deep forest can understand how such a shadowy horror could evolve. In Sara Maitland's From the Forest, the author writes of forests: 'A more promising contender for forest fear is 'panic', because the name itself originates in the woods. Classical Greek mythology defined panic as a specific kind of terror induced by Pan, the god of wild places and especially of woods and forests.' Alders, the trees from which the Erl King may derive his name, are known as witches' trees. Alder's inner wood turns red when cut and exposed to the air, which may be why it's also associated with the Erl King's daughter, a female spirit. The Erl King himself is a shadowy version of Shakespeare's fairy king Oberon and, perhaps, of the same ilk as the mysterious, murdering Long Lankin and the homicidal Elf Knight of the ballad 'Isobel and the Elf Knight.'

The Erl King dwells in the forest. He steals children. He's a malevolent presence. Unlike the more civilized English and French versions of the Elf King, the Erl King is a primitive spirit with no liking for mankind, and, like death, has no mercy for the young. Like Tolkien's Sauron, the Erl King is an unseen menace, ruler of a liminal world. In some stories, he is the leader of the Wild Hunt, antlered and wild, a force of nature.

But he is, first and foremost, a spirit of the forest in which the vulnerable become lost, the forest filled with teeth and claws.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Scourge by A.G. Henley

Welcome A.G. Henley, author of The Brilliant Darkness series ( )  to It's All About Story.

A.G.'s website is ( )

1) Describe The Brilliant Darkness series in one paragraph.

Thanks for having me on your blog! I'm so happy to be here. The Brilliant Darkness series is about a teen who's told her blindness mysteriously protects her from the flesh eating Scourge that threaten her forest-dwelling people But she hasn't been tested--until now. There are three novels and two novellas in the series.

2) What inspired book #1, The Scourge?

In 2010, my family took a trip to south Louisiana. I'd just finished reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth, a YA post-apocalyptic zombie novel by Carrie Ryan. I looked around at the vast expanses of swampy bayous and thought: I wonder how people would survive a zombie apocalypse in there? Maybe they'd go up in the trees . . . but what if half the people forced the other half to live on the ground to preserve resources, and the people on the ground had to hide from the zombie-like creatures? And, finally, what if a blind girl was the only one who could survive the creatures, but she wasn't exactly sure how? Within a month, I had characters fleshed out and the world developed. Two years later, The Scourge was published.

3) Was The Scourge your first work of fiction?

I wrote a YA time travel novel before The Scourge--my practice book. I shoved it in a virtual drawer in my hard drive, but it wouldn't stay put. I sharpened the premise and wrote a novella based on it that will be included in an anthology of YA short stories. Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time releases in March 2016. If readers like it, I might expand it into a novel, or even a new series.

4) What song or music piece would you put on a soundtrack for each book in The Brilliant Darkness series?

I love writing to music, but not usually specific songs or soundtracks. I have a Sonos system, and I throw on a channel with epic film soundtracks, video game soundtracks, or anything dramatic that helps conjure up the feels. I wrote one as-yet unpublished novel to the soundtrack for the Robert Downey Jr. film version of Sherlock Holmes. It was perfect for that book, but I was SO sick of it after five months of writing. On October 29th, I was listening to a Halloween-themed mix to get in the spirit of things.

5) Which character in The Brilliant Darkness series was easy to write? Which was the most difficult?

I'd say Moray--half-villain, half-hero--was the easiest to write. He has a strong personality, so I always knew what he'd say or how he'd react to most situations. Writing from Fennel's first-person POV wasn't easy, because she's blind. Obviously, I had to be constantly vigilant for any visual observations that slipped in. I also had to avoid metaphors and similes that included visual references. Harder than it might sound! It was very important to me to avoid stereotypes or microaggressions. I wanted to create an amazing, strong female protagonist who also happened to have a disability. Her blindness is a part of who she is, but it doesn't define her. I hope I succeeded.

6) What is your writing space like? Or can you write anywhere?

I usually work in my sunny home office on the second floor of our house, where I have a slivered view of the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. I love that! For too many years, I wrote sitting on the couch with my laptop in my lap, but I developed neck and shoulder strain and ended up at the chiropractor and massage therapist on a regular basis. Now, I use an ergonomic desk for the bulk of my writing time, and my body is MUCH happier :) I'd love to try a treadmill desk one of these days. That said, I've trained myself to write in lots of other places, too. I've written at soccer fields, swimming pools, airports, coffee shops, libraries, and many hours in the car while on family road trips.

7) Any odd writing habits?

Hmm, I can't think of any. I do sometimes resort to popping Hot Tamales to motivate myself to keep writing. The spicy jolt wakes me up if I'm starting to fade.

8) Do you outline?

I used to swear by being a pantser. My first three novels were a meandering tramp through half-formed ideas and plot points that somehow came together as novels. They didn't even need a ton of work to revise. (In other words, I got very lucky.) I figured that was just how I worked, and how I would work forever and ever. I blithely pantsed my way through my next novel . . . and it was a hot mess. Clearly a one off, right? I pantsed The Fire Sisters, my most recent book. Not only did it not work, but I also made many of the same mistakes that I had in the previous novel! It needed a massive rewrite. That was enough pantsing for me--time for a change.

Before rewriting, I created a detailed synopsis and wrote the first fifty pages to get a good handle on the plot, voice, and style, and I sent those to my agent to read. Knowing I was on the right track helped me move forward with much more confidence, and I re-wrote The Fire Sisters in a lot shorter time than I had ever written a book before. It became the perfect book to end my series.

9) What are some of your favorite world myths or fairy/folk tales? Why?

Funny you should ask! Like many, I grew up hearing and reading Grimm's fairy tales. When I studied abroad in Australia in college, I heard about Aboriginal Dreamtime stories, and I adored them. The Scourge includes several retellings, as well as one or two Native American folk stories.

10) What is your favorite fictional world, one you'd want to visit?

This won't be terribly original, but I'd live and teach at Hogwarts in a time-turning second. I'd be happy to hang out anywhere in the HP universe, even with You-Know-Who as a next-door neighbor! After that, I would love to have a mysterious Grace in Kristin Cashore's world in Graceling, and one day I'd like to visit Sesame Street :) Only, I'd avoid Elmo--that guy gives me the creeps.

11) What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

I'm always amazed and grateful for the advice and wisdom other writers are willing to share online. I read obsessively about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, so it's hard to remember one piece that stood out the best. A common nugget that I completely agree with is to be persistent. If  you love to write, keep writing, no matter what obstacles you encounter. Of course, that goes for almost any field. If you love doing it, it's worth the hard work and inevitable moments of rejection and heartache.

12)  In The Brilliant Darkness series, are there any hidden acknowledgements to friends, places you've lived, favorite writers etc;

That's a great question! The Scourge has several. I wanted to set it in Australia, but I couldn't pull off the Aussie dialect for my characters. Instead, I hid secret references to Oz in the story. For example, the male main character, Peree, is a storyteller. One of the important tales he tells is about a cassowary, a huge flightless bird found in New Guinea and northeastern Australia. While hiking in New South Wales one weekend, nowhere near the northeastern part of the country, I swear I saw a cassowary saunter across the trail. We looked at each other for a moment, and it went on. I was the only one who saw it. It was a special moment, one I'll never forget. I also used the Jenolan Caves in New South Wales as the inspiration for the cave system Fenn's people hide in to escape the Scourge. The names of a group in The Scourge are from a mixture of dialects of native Australian. A "tiger" Fenn and Peree encounter is roughly based on the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger. I could go on and on :)

13) Can you tell us what we have to look forward to after book #3 in the series, The Fire Sisters?

The Fire Sisters is the conclusion of The Brilliant Darkness series. As I mentioned, I'll have a short story in the Tick Tock anthology, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I'll be drafting the first book of a YA speculative fiction duology, and you can bet I'm plotting it out in advance! :)

Thanks for having me on your blog, Katherine!

Thank you, A.G.!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November YA Book Giveaway!

Win NAMELESS by Lili St. Crow. This story is a re-telling of Snow White, set in a future that has become infused with magic. Camille is found as a child by the sinister Vultusino family who raise her as their own. But she has to remember a horror from her past. This is a great fantasy world, darkly realistic, with poignant and interesting characters. There's Nico Vultusino, the darkly charismatic son of the family, and Cami's two best friends, Ruby and Ellie (Red Riding Hood and Cinderella) And the evil queen...yikes. This is the first in a series, so be prepared to become addicted!

For a chance to win Nameless, just Tweet about the contest, visit my Facebook fan page, or follow me on Twitter. That's it!

The contest runs Nov. 22 to Nov. 29.

This contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.

There will be one winner of this prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fantastic Fantasy Finds: The True Game by Sheri S. Tepper


The boy becomes a powerful wizard is a common fantasy story, but this one is not. Narrated from the pov of the young protagonist Peter, the True Game is set in a land of magic with a complex society. Peter is an orphan attending a school of magic. When he's betrayed by a friend and lover, he's forced to leave. Each power in the land of the True Game has its name and place in a fascinating hierarchy: Dragon, Necromancer, Seer, Tragamor, Sorcerer, and so on. Peter is soon traveling with Silkhands, the girl Healer, and his friend Yarrel, in the company of the High King. Haunted by Mandor, the Prince who betrayed him, Peter learns he is the son of the famous Mavin the Manyshaped, and that he, too, is a Shapeshifter.

As Peter travels deeper into his dangerous world, he learns how to master his powers amid betrayals and terrifying encounters. Peter is a realistic and charismatic teenager and there are glimpses of what he is going to become. This is a fantasy world you become immersed in and there are more!


These sequels concern Jinian, the young woman who eventually meets Peter and becomes his beloved. She is a wanderer, seeking out her talent in the world of the True Game. She meets Peter, whom she'd admired as a child. Then one of Peter's old enemies returns...

Like Peter, Jinian is a protagonist whose courage overrules her vulnerability even in the darkest moments.


These are the prequels to the True Game, about Peter's trickster mother, and an introduction to a world which is wondrous and sinister and absolutely original, with fully fleshed out characters.

So seek out the world of the True Game, but, I'm warning you, you'll become lost in it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pinkie's Picks: Readers' Theater by Nancy K. Wallace

Pinkie welcomes Nancy K. Wallace, the author of Readers' Theater: How to Put On a Production Set II. (Magic Wagon, a division of ABDO 2015) 

Nancy is the author of nineteen children's books and a full time Youth Services Librarian. Her first adult fantasy, Among Wolves (Harper Voyager UK) was released as an E-book in 2015. The sequel follows July 18, 2016.

PINKIE ASKS: What is your favorite childhood book?

NANCY: "The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, one of my mother's favorite childhood books, became my favorite as she read it to my older siblings and me. It gave me my first glimpses of fantastic worlds that presumably lay within mine only waiting to be discovered. Princess Irene's castle with its labyrinth of unexplored corridors and rooms, made me certain that my childhood home held an equal number of amazing places just waiting for me to stumble upon them! To this day, I dream that my house has rooms I have only just discovered, full of wonderful possibilities! I believe that this particular book sent me headlong into the arms of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as I grew older, making that first taste of fantasy all the sweeter for having been revealed to me at such an early age!"

PINKIE'S PICK: Readers' Theater: How to Put On a Production Set II offers a series of six fully illustrated scripts for elementary school students highlighting a year of holidays. Great for school or library productions, they would also make the perfect holiday gift for any budding thespian. Tips for costumes, sound effects,and makeup add to the fun. All scripts are color coded so kids can easily find their parts. A Teacher's Guide can be downloaded at

Titles include: Groundhogs and Guinea Pigs Fettuccine and Four-Leaf Clovers, Pickles and Parks, Medals and Memorials, Ghosts and Gummy Worms, and Turkey and Takeout. Sold separately or as a set they are available from ABDO, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Halloween Contest Runners-Up

These were the entries that were my top favorites! I've listed them in no particular order.

Ingrid didn't have to worry about hiding her wings at the old broken down cafe. No one ever came there. It was one of the only places she felt she could truly be herself. Even among her own, she had to pretend to be a different version of herself to avoid the mockery and disdain. As she gently walked across broken glass, cherishing the crunch, she plopped down into the rubble and opened her favorite book. Deeply engrossed in her book, she almost didn't hear the cat when it jumped onto the table. Ingrid sighed, "Can't I get just a little bit of peace? Why are you here, Alex?"

by Beth A.

$200 was cheap, but not this cheap. The ad at the cafe read, "Quaint one-bedroom flat available for rent," but as Brielle walked through the doorway of the decrepit building (sans an actual door), all she could think was, What a dump. Glass littered the floor and dirt covered every surface. There were mounds of dusty looking objects piled near the door. Upon closer inspection, Brielle realized they were heaps of books with yellowed pages and broken spines that looked as if someone had dumped them there and then proceeded to trample all over them. She shook her head, disgusted at the state of the building and the false advertising that led her here. That ad was an absolute mockery! I'm going back to the cafe and demanding they take it down at once. As she turned to walk out of the room and back to her car though, the heel of her boot caught on something slick. Her body pitched forward and Brielle fell to the ground. Luckily, her hands broke her fall and kept her from hitting her face on the hard floor. As she lifted the palm of her scraped hand and started to stand up, she noticed what she'd slipped on. See-through wings, the likes of which she'd only ever read about in fairy tales, lay glittering on the ground. They would have been pretty, almost magical, if not for the dark blood that coated the tips of each one. Brielle screamed, the sound reverberating through the room, and scrambled to her feet. She turned and ran in the opposite direction, seeking out a different exit. Her eyes alighted on another door, one she hadn't noticed until now. She was all the way across the room and nearly to the door when she stopped cold in her tracks. It's a hallucination. You're panicked and imagining things. Brielle was sure she wasn't though. Bile rose up in her throat, blocking out her ability to scream. Hung from the doorframe was a dead chicken, its pungent smell so strong she could smell it from where she stood. Although the chicken was strange, it wasn't the sight of the dead fowl that caused the hair on her arms to rise. It was the object underneath it, a life-size doll dressed in black. As the doll started to move, Brielle had one last thought before panic threatened to engulf her completely: This is what nightmares are made of.

by Emily Alfano

"Do you remember, darling, that cafe where you used to touch your feet against mine under the table, and I just wished you would kiss my cheek? You had a book on 'South Bridge Vaults of Edinburgh' that my fingers scavenged through at least once or twice, but it was such a mockery to the poltergeist on the fourth floor. I close my eyes now, touching scorched walls, broken glass crunching beneath my boots, and we've left so much hope at the door. You will never hold my backside at night again, alone in your bed, where I may have been missing wings, but I was still your angel. I'm not sorry that your bones poke up beneath the ash, but I'm afraid that you don't understand--we have burned to pieces as much as this cafe."

by Shannon Hawkins

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween Contest Winning Entry

                                          by Lauren White

Humans have forgotten the old ways of my kind. They've forgotten the strength in iron and salt and silver, running water and sacred bells. Samhain, our most hallowed night, has become a mockery of children running gleefully as glorified versions of the monsters they once feared, and still should. I myself have become nothing more than a bygone story in a book long lost, passed down through whispers tossed around between bored students at the local cafe or campfire; a legacy, but one without vitality. Still...they come to me. At least one group of children, reckless and curious, thinking I am the stuff of fancy. Every year they enter into my decaying world on dares and courage built of beer. My domain seems just any other abandoned house, looks and feels like it. I have arranged it so, so carefully to be unimpressive, to draw them in further. And they enter, breath quick and soft as sparrow wings, feet crunching on old, small skeletons, glass, weathered paper, and dying things. They see the strange objects I've left hanging, seemingly ordinary but disturbing now in the low light and unfamiliar territory. I sit, so patient, an ancient spider in the oldest, easiest of webs. Every time they glance at me: my porcelain skin, cracked and fractured, the glass eyes that look too alive but are considered a trick of the light, my broken legs, tossed off to the side. I am an old thing; I make them uneasy and they walk away. They always move past me, through the doorway, where I leave a mirror perfectly polished and shining. My doorway, the one I crawled through before I hid inside this body to wait. This one thing is left flawless, and becomes the object of their focus. And so they always see me coming, and have a last rush of fear as this heavy head turns to them, my body moving forward on spindly arms, quicker than they are, coming to devour. I always keep a trinket of theirs and hang it like the ornaments of some twisted tree: a button, a knife, a young girl's hair ribbon, a lover's ring. Memory haunts this place as much as I do, and so each victim brings the next closer. And it is happening again. Beyond these walls night is falling and I can smell wood smoke and Samhain on their skin as they approach. Voices growing quiet as they enter and begin to point out the strangeness of my museum, sweep a light across my face and to the mirror. Their costumed bodies move forward, shaking. Humans have forgotten me. But I am patient and soon to be remembered. I twitch to life, this doll body clinking as the porcelain moves, and in my gilded mirror they see me coming.

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