Sometimes a story needs to find the right audience to be considered grand. The key is to not give up. This is the story of my story that won grand prize in a contest at Fairy Tale Magazine.
Wise Women and Their Medicine
I wrote a flash fiction story for a contest a while back, which asked for tales of wise women, cunning women, or witches. Wisdom of the woods, in other words.
I’d been carrying around this notion in my head of someone who sees food as medicine or poison. An awesome and intense conversation with a new friend who was a nutritionist sparked the idea. She said that anything you put in your body could act as either medicine or poison. One was nourishing, encouraging growth and sustaining life. The other was toxifying, slowing down natural processes, and included many things that a body needed to filter out. Wholesome food versus processed food. Herbal tea versus whiskey. That idea stuck with me, as a binary I’d never thought of before. I decided to save it for the right story.
Cross-Stitch meets Cross-Reference
I took up cross-stitch in the pandemic, as a meditative practice to focus on sewing tiny Xs instead of the real world’s problems. At the time I was stitching a Hansel and Gretel pattern, a candy cottage deep in the woods.
These three things collided in my brain: Hansel and Gretel, Cunning Woman of the Forest, Medicine or Poison. So I wrote a short-short story, retelling the classic tale from the witch’s perspective. Maybe it had all been a mistake. Maybe she had offered medicine, and the wayward children, terrified and starving, had only seen poison.
I had to write it very quickly, in about two days, because I saw the contest notice right before the deadline. This pressure was actually a good thing, because it forced me to hunker down and make the story work instead of ruminating on possibilities.
The right story for the right audience
My story was rejected from that “cunning woman of the forest” anthology. Phooey.
I’ve never had a story win Grand Prize before, and as a fairy tale teller, getting chosen by Fairy Tale magazine just makes it that much cooler.
My son suggested I write a series of stories where the traditional witch is not the bad guy we always thought. Like Neil Gaiman’s classic short story, “Tori Amos), and the true evil is smiling behind ruby red lips.
I’m thinking of Sleeping Beauty (which needed a rewrite from the outset, frankly). Perhaps Aurora is a diva princess who should be taught a lesson, only the curse wasn’t meant to last a hundred years, and the whole thing is overblown for the jealous witch who made one teensy wicked wish….
You can buy the upcoming “Tales from the Night Queen’s Realm” issue of FTM, due out on September 1st, to read “Medicine or Poison”. I would love to hear what favorite witch’s tale you’d like to hear retold in the comments.
All the best,
Buy The Flight of the Starling, A Fairy Tale by Ella Arrow, out now. You can read the first chapter here.
This week I’ve opened my store on Etsy! For a long time, I debated whether the effort to open one would be worth it, since I have other venues where my art and book are sold, but it answered two important needs I’d been pondering for a while. Plus like most things, it wasn’t as complicated to execute as I’d imagined.
I can easily offer signed copies of The Flight of The Starling paperback on Etsy. If you want an autographed copy of the book, personalized for you or your favorite fairy tale reader (or simply signed), you can now order one from directly me. To prove it, here’s a photo that includes my book, my hand, and my library wallpaper.
I ordered a bunch of paperback copies in March 2020, anticipating a book sale at the local writer’s conference, and then 2020 was all PLOT TWIST! So since I have them on a shelf, and people have asked how to get signed copies before, this feels inevitable.
Downloadable Digital Images
My Society6 storefront is an awesome tool for printing art on anything you can imagine (coffee mugs, notebooks, and tote bags are my favorite), but currently they have no option for simply buying a digital image. Etsy to the rescue!
As someone who has done a lot of layouts, desktop publishing, and just plain switching up my computer wallpaper, I love digital art. You can print it and put it in a frame, tack it to your office wall, make it into a birthday card, or set it as a pretty background on any of your screens. It’s quick and easy and if you lose it or scratch it, you can download another copy, forever. It’s also a lot cheaper than buying physical art – the online equivalent of buying a print at the art fair.
A new store deserved a new artwork, right? Cue the trumpets.
Sea Spiral – Digital Art on Etsy
One digital art purchase includes 5 files, sized to fit various standard frames. If you buy it and somehow it doesn’t fit your needs, just contact me and I will adjust and send a brand-new file, free of charge.
Now that I’ve got the store open and figured out the finicky process of resizing to make the files, I’ll start adding more artwork in the near future. Have any advice or suggestions for running an Etsy journey? Leave me a comment.
I haven’t been writing as much as I intended on this blog dedicated to finding magic and wonder when life is hard. I keep having ideas and then rejecting them as not inspired enough. Feels like everything on the internet must be Pinterest-worthy these days. I realized I’ve been thinking about it wrong. It’s not that I need the answer, to offer tasty tidbits that will teach readers how to live a magical life. I mean, sometimes, if I’m lucky and lightning strikes, yes. But I don’t want this blog to turn too sweet, too optimistic, poisonous positivity. It’s about the struggle, right?
Yesterday was a struggle. For one reason or another I was cranky. I was feeling mildly unwell, like you do in early March/late winter, when the sky is grey, the snow is grey, and the people are grey from lack of vitamin D and too much worry about the latest flu virus. Yesterday I was Neville who died from ennui.
My mental to-do list is always bigger than my time or energy, especially when I’m forced to do something unavoidable, like work or cook. That’s when the to-do list balloons, taking over the margins of my brain beside meeting notes or vegetables. And when work is done, the couch beckons, Gardenscapes or a word game on my phone rots my brain and then before I know it I’ve whittled away my afternoon, and my son is late for karate.
Obviously I’m a terrible mother. No other mother in the history of karate lessons has ever taken her son to a 30-minute class 10 minutes late. The shame. The horror. How will I ever make it up to him?!? This is my inner voice until every little thing my daughter did evoked a snarl while we sat for 20 whole minutes in the viewing chairs at the dojo.
I tried to reset, sitting there taking deep breaths among the chatting parents and the shouting uniformed child army. I wonder why it didn’t work?
I tried to reset at home, making dinner, moving about in tedious tidying, feeding one animal after another. I wonder why it didn’t work??
I’ve been reading my book (shameless plug) to my children at bedtime. This is a one-of-a-kind joy, something I can never do for the first time again. It makes me want to write 10 more children’s books before they grow up, just so I could read them aloud to them. But lately, at pajama time, they’ve been playing together happily, sometimes for the first time all day.
So there was no time for stories before lights out.
I sat on my gray couch in my blue living room feeling sorry that I’d wasted my afternoon instead of writing. I wondered how I could chase the clouds away while staying relaxed enough to wind down toward my own sleep. And that’s when I remembered sometimes it is a struggle. Sometimes you must seek out that spark of joy, not try to will the dark clouds away but run towards the sun.
When in doubt, go to the library.
I looked through my library, where I’d recently fluffed my books, rearranging them, and grabbed a tall heavy tome on Michelangelo. I’d inherited this book and didn’t know it well. I was disappointed to see such an abundance of text, academic for sure (though I didn’t read it) and far too many sketches to my non-art-student eyes.
But then there he was, floating on a parchment-colored page: a man’s face in profile. Sketched in red pencil, the lines of his stroke are clearly visible. His face was so clear, so detailed, so specific. I would know this person if I passed him on the street. A weight lifted from my shoulders. A lightness entered me.
Sometimes when I look on great works, I feel I’ve wasted my life. Like Alexander Hamilton, I used to write like I’m running out of time, but job and kids and house and friends and TV and Facebook, and, you know, life, take all my creative energy, and I let them.
But this wasn’t that feeling. What I felt was pure awe.
This was no masterpiece looking down on me from a chapel ceiling, distant and untouchable in its perfection. It was just a sketch. A human brain conceived it, a human hand had drawn it. I could easily imagine Michelangelo scratching this at his kitchen table, planning a masterpiece. (Did he even have a kitchen table? Guess I should try reading that book.) Even in that incomplete sketch, he had captured the essence of the real human in the drawing.
Artists can turn ink into blood, so their creations pulse with life.
When I finally published my first book, I wondered when was the moment it became a real book, and I became a real fiction author.
I got my proof copies of my book, The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale, in the mail yesterday. I don’t know why I ordered 5 of them, the max Amazon allowed, when I can get author copies for the same price in a few days. I was excited, I guess, to hold it in my hands, and I’m more likely to walk into bookstores with a real product to pitch than an ephemeral web link.
I keep picking the book up. Stroking the cover. Flipping it
over to confirm the presence of my photo on the back. Feeling its weight.
Opening to a random page and reading till something makes me laugh. There are
so many little jokes in it that I have forgotten.
I want to sleep with it under my pillow. I want to wear it
inside my shirt over my heart.
Every time I got through a new gate, over a new hurdle, in
this publishing journey, I would say to myself, “It’s starting to look like a
real book.” The cover. The pre-sale listing. The author web page. “It’s almost
like a real book.”
So today as I hold the book, I think, “Is it a real book
yet? When is the moment it becomes a real book? When I get the final print?
When I see it on a shelf in a store? When a stranger buys and reads it? Is
there one moment?”
I am Pinocchio. I am the Velveteen Rabbit. I am waiting to
be loved enough to become real.
It feels oddly similar to how I felt before giving birth. I remember being 5 or 6 months pregnant with my first child when I got my first gift of baby clothes. I held up the onesie, sized for a 7-pound newborn human. Tiny for clothes, but huge it seemed to me, with the baby still part of my body. I also had certain, specific expectations of how I would feel when giving birth, and was disappointed when the experience delivered something else. Something more complicated than those glossy narratives of new motherhood.
So I’m trying not to manage my expectations too much. I want
to feel however I feel about publishing my first book without telling myself a
story of how I should be feeling at this or that milestone. I don’t want to
create a story of what my experience will be, because I know now that can set
up its own kind of disappointment. I’ve loved this book a long time and it is
so scary to think of people possibly hating it. Not getting it. Thinking it
doesn’t work or isn’t worth the effort. If there is a point where it becomes a
“real” book, does that armor me against the opinions of people who don’t think
it should be?
I don’t know. I think it was a real book long ago. I’ve just
been waiting to finally put it into newborn clothes.
I live in Wisconsin, in one of the many small towns that ring Madison by about ten miles. I figure it’s the distance a horse could ride in a day and that’s why all these towns sprung up, like a fairy ring of mushrooms. In my book, The Flight of The Starling, one of the two fairies is named Beloit. Beloit and his sister meet Princess Lily and convince her Prince Alexander is a horrible guy who likes to cut wings off fairies who annoy him, which makes the princess determined to rescue them.
Beloit, Wisconsin, is about an hour away from my house. I drive past it to visit my friends in Chicago. I’ve never spent any time there. I’ve never had any reason to.
So why is an important character in my novel named Beloit?
Simple: Frank Zappa. And my mother.
I grew up in the Midwest, and once on a road trip to Wisconsin, my mom recalled a funny quote when we passed Beloit. It wasn’t till years later that I learned it was something Zappa said in a concert in Wisconsin: “I can never hear the name ‘Beloit’ without thinking of the sound of a marble being dropped into a toilet bowl. Beloit!”
I’m probably butchering the quote, and I could not find an
official reference to it. But my brother and I were in grade school at the time
and we knew comedy gold when we heard it. A family running joke was born. We
could never hear of Beloit without saying this, and sometimes we would just
intone the word – low on the “bell” with a long L, a lilt and emphasis on the
“oi” – and bust out laughing.
I don’t know why my brain picked Beloit as the name for a fairy. Marzipan’s name came first – a light and crunchy confection somewhere between candy and cookie. She’s Beloit’s sister, the other fairy in the fairy tale, and she is distinctly more salty than sweet. But she means well and would never try to hurt anyone with her mischief. Beloit is less practical than Marzipan, more silly, but together they make a perfect pair of pixies, finishing each other’s sentences and schemes.
“Marzipan and Beloit” had a nice ring to it. I was definitely thinking of the marble in the toilet bowl when I named him. To me, Beloit will always be funny. The horse’s name, Milwaukee, was just a continuation of the joke. I don’t know why but I thought the random Wisconsin references got funnier the more I did it.
When I wrote The Flight of The Starling, I lived in Montana. I had no thought of moving closer to Beloit. Now that I am a Wisconsinite, I have to say, I think naming a fairy Beloit is even funnier than it was when I wrote it. I apologize to any Beloitites (Beloiters? Beloitians?) who don’t agree, or who think the splooshing onomatopoeia is an insult. What can I say, I was a child, and it stuck in my head. You’ll have to take it up with Frank Zappa.
What would you name a fairy and why? Leave me a comment.
All the best,
The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale, is available for pre-order on Amazon and IngramSpark now, for release on November 1.
As I get ready to release my book, The Flight of The
Starling, A Fairy Tale, I find myself reminiscing about when I wrote it.
The book cover looks so real, the website seems like a real author’s
page, and the idea of actually putting this story I have loved so long out
into the world is exhilarating, but scary. Times like these I feel like going
back to the beginning of things.
Recipe for writing with the door closed
So I brewed some Strawberry Sunset tea. A whiff of hibiscus, lemongrass, and strawberry works a sort of magic. Smell is the sense of memory. Suddenly I’m in the kitchen of that awful pink rental house in Missoula, the one I shared with my husband when we got married. My black and white cat, Fox, is meowing at my feet. Once the summery scents are spiraling up from my mug, I take it to the window seat in the back bedroom. I settle in among every throw pillow in the house, a princess without a pea, and draw the lace curtain. It isn’t much but this cordons off my writing nook from the rest of the house, and my writing time in a sacred bubble where I won’t let myself be disturbed.
I take up my pen and my fairy tale notebook – real actual paper from trees. I didn’t write the whole book longhand, but in the beginning, this was deliberate. I wanted to strip away all the trappings of literary pretension I had picked up as an English major. Just me, my words, and my pen. Slow and careful, writing it like a journal helped in my quest for authenticity, for writing intimately. Stephen King called this “writing with the door closed” in his book, Recipe for a Fairy Tale
Ritual is meant to bring us to a certain state of mind. I’m over a thousand miles away and many years past that house, that nook, that time. Fox is long gone, but my golden cat, Topaz, is my writing companion now. I still have the fairy tale notebook, somewhere, but now I carry a digital copy of the book in my pocket on my phone. Butterfly Herbs still makes Strawberry Sunset tea, and whenever I drink it, I time-travel to when I first wrote about Princess Lily, Marzipan, Beloit, and all the rest.
What magical elixir takes you instantly back to another time and place? Do you ever travel back on purpose?
All the best.
The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale, is available for pre-order on Amazon and IngramSpark now, for release on November 1.
Part One, In Which We Meet a Beautiful Princess with an Interest in Fairies
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess with the most amazing collection of magical artifacts ever assembled this side of Merlin’s boot closet (which historians have never been able to locate and therefore never catalog, but we can assume some pretty terrific magical thingamajigs were in it, so I’m sure you get what I mean).
This princess (whose name, if you want to know, was Lily) had
long flowing locks of chestnut hair, and eyes that were, depending on her mood
and the weather outside, sometimes green, sometimes brown, and, occasionally,
golden. They were always fiery. Her eyebrows seemed always to be asking a
question, and her lips looked like they knew the answer. Her nose, I’m afraid,
was remarkably dull, but overall the people of her kingdom of Starling found
her “radiant” and “stunning – a royal gem!” (Sir Scandalot
of the Knightly Times).
Princess Lily had a magical mirror with one side that showed you
the person you always hoped you might be, and the other showed your inner,
true, undeniable self. Princess Lily liked to use this device to look under her
bed. Mostly she saw dust bunnies munching around, and one or two home gnomes
who must not have liked themselves much, based on what the mirror showed her.
She had a magical key ring that always came when you called it,
only it happened to have a name that was hard to pronounce (try to say
“ghoti” while sneezing). If Princess Lily didn’t get the inflection
just right, the key ring’s feelings were hurt, and it would sulk for days and
not come out. She’d given up locking her lavatory, rather than risk never
seeing daylight again.
Princess Lily had scads and scores of these kinds of magical
artifacts. Little dolls that danced the tarantella. Crystals that sang, only
slightly off-key, when the sun shone on them. A hat that always made your hair
look better, instead of worse. They coated the shelves in her bed chamber. They
dripped off the end tables onto the floor. They made sweeping under the bed
nearly impossible, much to the delight of the dust bunnies.
On the day of the Grand Duke’s son’s bris, Princess Lily and her
friend, Alistrina, were out in the kitchen garden using magical artifacts to
hunt for fairies. The princess knew fairies existed, but she’d never personally
seen one, the way you know grizzly bears are real but haven’t run into any on
your way to the pickle emporium. The Grand Duke was rumored to keep fairy
servants, and since baby-related ceremonies are favorable times to have Little
Folk around, he might have brought them to Castle Starling. Princess Lily hoped
“Anything yet?” Princess Lily asked her friend.
“I’m afraid not.” Alistrina, a blonde, solid girl whose only true
beauty was the perfect orderliness of her teeth, waved her hand around in slow
circles in front of her. She turned toward different parts of the late-spring
garden, the green vines climbing trellises, neat rows of vegetables, and
sunshine filtering through the fruit trees near the sandstone courtyard wall.
“Not a flicker on this Fairy Ring.” The large gem in the Ring she wore –
magicked to change color in the presence of fairy folk – was a soft and
resolute blue. “What about you, see anything special?”
Princess Lily adjusted the large pink spectacles she wore over
her amazing eyes. “Well, that goat over there should really be chased out of
the turnip patch.” She pointed to a male gardener pulling turnips up by the root.
He sat back and stroked his rather pointy beard, and laughed. Lily waved a hand
at him and said, “Shoo!”
Alistrina rolled her eyes, deciding not to explain this to the
princess, who began collecting magical artifacts because of her obsession with
fairies. In the Enlightened Kingdoms, an average family might have two or three
treasured magical items, passed down as precious heirlooms, and royalty like
the Starlings had a few dozen amusing trinkets, but still needed servants to
sweep and cook and garden in a most un-magical manner. “Perhaps the
Rose-Colored Glasses aren’t working,” suggested Alistrina. “Shouldn’t they be
showing the magical creatures around you, not goats?”
“They’re supposed to see through magical enchantments, so if a
fairy is disguised behind a glamour, I should be able to see it,” said the
princess. “Come on, there’s nothing out here. Let’s try the kitchen.”
Cooks were pulling copper pots off racks, chopping vegetables and
lamb on different ends of the chopping blocks in the castle’s large kitchen,
and otherwise stirring, baking, or bustling around to make the feast.
“I don’t understand why your father doesn’t just get you a fairy.
Can’t the king get you anything you want?” Alistrina nicked a pastry from a
basket and shared a smile with the baker.
Alistrina was from the neighboring realm of Lualdath, so the ways
of Starling and King William were foreign to her. “My father banned fairies
from the kingdom,” explained Princess Lily, leaning back against the wooden
counter. “When my father was a prince, my grandfather tried to give him a fairy
companion, but granddad didn’t know much about fairies. He ended up getting a
changeling, which was just a boy with slightly pointy ears. My dad got along
with ‘Fred the fairy’ for a while, but when he started refusing to eat his
special diet of green leaves and sunshine, and wanted to share the prince’s
human food, people figured it out. My father always says this fascination with
fairies is nonsense liable to lead to disappointment and a smaller share of
cake. When he became king, he fired all the fairy servants. Only really special
guests like the Grand Duke are even allowed to bring them in, and only if my
father doesn’t have to feed them.”
“But you were telling me about home gnomes who stole your keys.
Don’t they count?”
“Other fae-kind are still allowed. Ever since last fall’s Curdled
Custard Fiasco, I’ve suspected trolls of haunting the castle. But fairies
aren’t welcome, and it’s been so many years, now they mostly stay away.”
“Not that it keeps her highness from looking for them,” piped in
a baker, vigorously kneading dough nearby. “We all know what you’re looking
for, highness, with them rosy specs.” The large woman nodded her head
“I’ve never actually seen a fairy,” Lily finished wistfully.
Many girls love stories about pixies, nixies, and sprites, but
Lily’s obsession went beyond the typical, in spite of, and perhaps because, her
father was the one who had pushed them out of her reach. Princess Lily thought
of fairies the way some girls think of “bad boys.” She knew very well
that they could be mischievous, sly, and selfish, but they were also dashing,
mysterious, forbidden, and incredibly romantic. If a fairy had shown up at
Castle Starling wearing a motorcycle jacket and a disrespect for authority, you
can be sure Princess Lily would have been head over heels before he spoke a
word with his pouty, mutinous mouth.
Alistrina had more ordinary interests for a teenage girl. “How
long are we going to keep looking? I saw the courtiers as they came in, and
some of them were unbelievably cute. I don’t want to miss our chance to …
bump into them.” Alistrina raised her eyebrows, implying many possibilities.
The princess resettled the Glasses on her nose. “We haven’t even
finished this room yet. We’ll make it
in time it to the feast after the ceremony.”
Alistrina sighed. “Alright but if the boy with the blue leaf
doublet is talking to some other maiden by the time we get there, I may never
The search of the kitchen turned up bupkus — which is to say no
fairies — as did the scullery, the servants’ quarters, the Tower Of The Moon
and the one Of The Sun. Several times Alistrina reminded Princess Lily of her
promise to get to the party. The princess reminded Alistrina whose castle she
was in, then, feeling a twinge of remorse, repeated her promise that they could
Finally in the guest wing, they began to get results with their
fairy detecting gear. Lily knew the bedspread on the large four-poster bed to
be green, but it looked an awful mustard color with her pink Glasses. The
person lodging in this room must’ve had some kind of pet, for a small iron cage
lay on the floor in one corner, with a soft pillow inside and two small dishes
for food and water.
“The Fairy Ring is flickering! I think it’s changing color,”
Alistrina said. “Oh, good goblins, it was but only for a second.”
Lily hesitated. It wasn’t proper to sneak into people’s
rooms, even in her own castle, but she couldn’t think of a better chance to see
a fairy in person, something she had yearned for all her life. She knew better
than to ask straight out about the Grand Duke’s fairies – her father would
surely make her sit through the hours-long “fairy nonsense” lecture again.
Finally she said, a high justifying tone slipping into her voice,
“It’s not as if we’re snooping for people’s secrets. We’re only looking for
Alistrina laughed. “It’s never ‘only’ with you, highness. Not
when it’s anything to do with fairies.”
Princess Lily looked around the guest room with her Rose-Colored
Glasses. Everything in the room looked ordinary, though pinkish. “Maybe we
should stop now and just go to the par–“
She stopped abruptly, and pointed under a small table near the
“Over there!” the princess whispered. “I see this faint trail of
glitter. Try the Ring.”
Alistrina held her hand up where Lily pointed, as both girls took
a silent step closer.
“I think it’s … yes … it’s changing to green.” They looked at
the Ring as its neutral blue faded and transformed slowly to a swirling green,
that meant a fairy had at long last been found.
They squealed in excitement and clasped each other’s hands. When
they looked back at the Ring, the green was fading back to blue again. “What’s
happening?” asked Alistrina.
The trail of glitter led from the original spot through the open
door. “It’s on the run,” said Lily. “Quick!”
They ran out into the hallway which was lined with floor-to-ceiling
tapestries. Quickly they figured out the fairy was heading in the direction of
the Second Most Grand Hall. Though they couldn’t see the creature itself, they
saw where it rippled the thick tapestries as it ran. The Fairy Ring kept
detecting, flashing various colors as they chased it. The glittery shine the
princess could see was strongest at the head of the trail, fading behind the
fairy like the tail of a comet.
It was incredibly fast. Even as the girls ran down the hallway,
the fairy was several yards ahead of them and they barely gained on it. Before
they could get within a yard of it, they were all running into the Second Most
Grand Hall and the crowded court.
The hall was a series of white plaster arches which intersected
in three connected domes high overhead, with a delicate sandy yellow on the
rounded walls in between. A plinth at the base of each arch held a potted ivy plant,
which climbed and clung to the walls as the only decoration. Right then the
hall was standing room only, with a rabbi, the duke’s family, and the king and
queen on a little dais in front of a few hundred courtiers. The guest of honor was
fussing and wondering when someone would change his diaper.
The princess and her friend looked anxiously over the heads of
the throng, along the floor between noble knees, and then they began weaving
through the crowd.
“A wing, I saw a wing! Just there, over that man’s shoulder!”
“Yes, there’s green in that direction! Get closer!”
Anxious not to lose it, the maidens moved quickly, brushing and
bumping past people to reach a short man with the most beautiful head of hair
the princess had ever seen. On one shoulder of his gold jacket, peeking out
from behind his collar, was a slender shimmering wing with purple tracings and
an iridescent shine.
Behind her Glasses the princess’s eyes blinked from brown to
green as a thrill swept through her chest. Lily pointed with her naked finger.
Alistrina pointed with her ring finger. They nodded, and stepped toward the
He wasn’t much taller than Princess Lily. Turning toward Lily, he
gave them a smile in silent greeting, which turned a little confused with an
uplift of his brow, then downright alarmed as the brow flipped a U-ey when he
realized their intense gaze was targeting him. He shifted his weight nervously
from one foot to the other, and took a step backward.
The princess stared intently at his shoulder. Alistrina strained
on tiptoe a little as the shoulder in question was turned away from her. As
they approached, the Fairy Ring flickered green/blue/green/red/blue, and the
Rose-Colored Glasses showed the gossamer wing slip out of sight around the
man’s tall collar.
Princess Lily circled around to see the fairy. The small,
glittering winged person looked up at her with knowing black eyes. By this
point the little man was so perplexed and disquieted that when she reached for
the fairy, he could do nothing but throw up his hands and emit a little shriek
Fortunately for our princess, at that same moment the ceremony
concluded and everyone in the crowd was throwing up their hands and cheering.
With the man’s sudden movement, the dainty creature clutched at his jacket with
its tiny fingers, then fell. The man’s arm bumped Lily and her Glasses flew
off, her eyes flashing bright green. The fairy fell into her waiting hands as
Lily held her breath in elation and wonder at her first real fairy encounter.
But what landed in her hands, and what she saw with her
unmagical, fiery eyes, wasn’t a fairy at all. It was long, furry, and weasel-like,
with small rounded ears, a pointy pleasant face, short legs and a skinny tail.
The animal was soft and white and looked up at her with knowing black eyes.
“Oh your highness, you gave me such a fright,” said the little
man. Without the Glasses, Lily could see his coat was a light brown, not
cloth-of-gold at all. His hair was as far from beautiful as a grown man can
wear: streaks of greasy hair combed over a freckled bald spot.
“If only I had known your highness was interested in ferrets, I
would have gladly shown you Stanley when the bris was over. But there, I see he
“Stanley?” said Alistrina, in wonderment, finally getting a look
at the creature.
“Ferret?” squeaked Princess Lily in disbelief. She looked down to
see Stanley the Ferret chewing experimentally on the lace of her cuff, then
give it up for a bad job and climb inside her wide bell sleeve. His tiny claws dug
into the flesh of her arm.
She tried to grab him inside the sleeve without success, and
Alistrina touched the outside of the dress to guide him out. Her Ring pulsed a
most excited shade of green where her hand lay over the ferret. She and the
princess locked eyes.
“Alistrina, are you absolutely sure that’s a Fairy Ring?” Her
voice dropped to a dead-serious tone, or at least as serious as she could
manage while trying to wrestle the ferret out of her dress.
“My maid said it was when she opened my birthday gifts and
read me the cards.” Alistrina’s face contorted in remorse and confusion. “I
suppose it’s possible I
didn’t hear her right….”
“Are these yours, my dear?” The combed-over man handed the pink
spectacles back to Princess Lily. “My brother has a pair of those. Magic shows
you what you want to see most in the world. He married the ugliest girl I ever
seen in my life, and lived happily with her these 20 years.
“And I see you’ve got a Ferret Ring!” He amiably brought up his
hand to show Alistrina a ring the exact copy of her own. “No wonder you were
both so keen on meeting Stanley. I never take mine off when I travel with him,
makes no end of difference when trying to find him behind the couch cushions.”
Lily took one last hopeful jab for the day at her lifelong wish.
“I don’t suppose you know whether the Grand Duke brought his fairy servants to
the castle, do you?”
“No, his manservant was complaining to my manservant that he had
ever so much more work because they left the fairies at home. Wouldn’t do to
upset the king when he’s your host,” the ferret owner said with a smile.
By now Stanley had emerged from Lily’s sleeve onto her collarbone, where he was licking her neck and earlobe. It was a warm, cuddly sort of a thing, and it tickled. Lily was no longer startled by the ferret, and despite her disappointment over her failed fairy hunt, she couldn’t help laughing.
The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through IngramSpark for independent booksellers.