“Tell me, Liza, do you believe that spring will come?”

ETA: I’m not yet sure about spring, but March has come, so the contest is now closed, though you’re welcome to keep talking about spring and why you do or don’t believe in it. Thanks for all the fabulous entries! I’ll choose/draw the winners within a few days.


February has hit the northern hemisphere with a vengeance this year. I often say that Tucson’s February–our cabin-fever season–is August, but even here, night temperatures are dipping into the teens, with accompanying gas/water outages and school closings. (If you want to shut down Southern Arizona, apparently all you have to do is turn off the heat.) More northern climes are, meanwhile, buried under some serious snow.

Faerie Winter is very much a book about winter. I’ve told friends that if you want to understand the book, all you really need to do is to listen to Dar Williams’ February, which did get pretty constant play as I was writing the book, trying to remember what a Midwestern winter felt like as I wrote through a Southwestern summer.

Liza, my protagonist, of course knows all about Midwestern winters, or at least about those cold dark days when your feet are always damp and you can never quite seem to get warm. But she’s never known the gray that goes with the cold, because in her post-apocalyptic world, the trees are so thick with the faerie magic that makes them seek human blood and bone, they never drop their green leaves.

Until now.

Now, the trees have surrendered their green, and for the first time Liza is living through a winter that’s not only cold, but gray:

[At first] I’d laughed with the others, to see the leaves burst into fiery colors and fall from the trees, thinking only of how much easier winter would be, if the trees slept and we could walk through the forest unafraid. That was nearly a half year ago, though. The leaves had since turned to brown, and the world their falling had left behind reminded me of the black-and-white photos in the oldest books from Before. It reminded me of the land where I’d found the quia seed. I hadn’t known any world could be so gray … I’d tried to call acorns and maple seeds, remembering how I’d once felt the green at the heart of all seeds yearning to grow. I felt nothing but a shadowy gray silence … The days were as long as the nights now, and winter still hadn’t released its hold on the land. I could fight a willow’s strangling roots, or a hawk’s poisoned talons, but I didn’t know how to fight a world that didn’t want to grow.

After six months, Liza, like so many of us in winter, isn’t quite sure she believes the gray will ever end. Yet we, at least, have an advantage: we’ve seen winter turn to spring before. Liza hasn’t:

Adults believed that spring would come, somewhere deep inside, for all that they were careful of our rations. Some part of them couldn’t imagine green wouldn’t return to the world, as if green was something we were born to. I did not understand it. Deep inside I felt as if this gray had surely gone on forever, and the forests I’d fought all my life had been merely illusions.

The adults in Liza’s town assure her she’s worrying needlessly, even though it’s not just oaks and maples and other deciduous trees dropping their leaves, but also evergreen pines and firs.

Karin, a faerie plant mage, offers no such reassurances, however:

The grasses sighed wearily and retreated back into the snow. “They’re not dead,” I said. “Not completely, not around you.”

“They are not dead.” Karin sounded as tired as the grasses had. “But they are dying. Tell me, Liza, do you believe that spring will come?”

Why ask me? I was no plant mage. “The adults in my town believe it.” They believed in spite of the gray trees and gray skies, the failed crops and the too-long winter.

“So it is with the human adults in my town as well.” Karin held a hand out to the falling snow as we walked on. Snowflakes melted against her skin. “Yet I have never heard the trees so quiet. They yearn for darkness, and some have given way to it. Others slip into sleep, accepting that they may never wake. I am told this is the way of your world. It is not the way of mine. I have never known a forest that was not green. What do you believe?”

So here’s the contest. Answer Karin’s question. Tell me: “Do you believe that spring will come?” And tell me why or why not.

You can answer in any form you like–a straightforward text answer, a story, art or music, some other form I haven’t thought of. You can post your answer here, or you can post it in your own journal with a mention of Faerie Winter and link to it in a comment here. You can answer even if you live in a place where it isn’t winter right now, too. (But where it will be winter by the time Faerie Winter comes out–that’s April in the U.S. and Canada, May in Australia.)

Deadline: Whenever February ends. That is, midnight the last day of this month, in whatever time zone you live in. (If February doesn’t end, no prizes will be given.)

Prizes: A signed copy of Faerie Winter, sent whenever I get my author copies, probably sometime in March. I’ll choose (at least) one winner based on the responses themselves, and I’ll also choose one winner completely at random. (Because anyone breaking through the cold and ice to take part in a contest deserves something just for that, right?)

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