“Do you believe that spring will come?”

Bones of Faerie, the first book of my Bones of Faerie trilogy, is about uncontrolled growth: plants that bloom in every season, crops that fight their harvesters, trees that seek human blood and bone to root in.

[Faerie Winter Cover]

Faerie Winter, the second book of the trilogy, tells the opposite story. It’s about endless winter, failure to grow, and the fear that spring might never come.

During our current physical and psychological winter, Faerie Winter is the book I’ve been thinking about.

The story’s protagonist, Liza, is surrounded by adults who remember countless other winters, followed by countless other springs. Liza was born after the war between faeries and humans banished winter from her world, though. She’s never known anything but deadly, unbounded growth. When that growth stops at last, Liza’s first thought is about how much safer the forests have become. Later, when she realizes that those forests have also stopped producing the things humans need to survive, she has no mental roadmap for what might happen next.

When Jayce, a member of Liza’s town’s council, talks about preparing for spring planting, Liza wonders at the fact.

If he feared that the spring crops wouldn’t grow, he gave no sign. Adults believed, somewhere deep inside, that spring would come, for all that they were careful of our rations. Some part of them couldn’t imagine that 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.

Not all the adults in Liza’s world share Jayce’s certainty, though. As the story progresses, Liza flees a danger that comes from beyond the dying forest with Karin, a fey survivor of the War. Karin is a plant mage, keenly aware of the changes winter has brought to the world, and she asks aloud the question that human adults have not.

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 the 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?”

Do you believe that spring will come? It’s a question I’ve returned to many times since I wrote Faerie Winter. It’s a question I was asking before I wrote that book, too, before fiction led me, as it so often does, to put into words the things I was already saying.

Because Faerie Winter is fantasy, the question of spring’s return is not merely metaphoric. It turns out the danger of endless winter is real, and so Liza’s inner crisis is echoed by the world’s outer one. Fantasy does that, sometimes—lets us transform internal struggles into external realities so that we can face those struggles head on and in a more concrete way than other types of stories allow.

Do you believe that spring will come? Things have changed so much already—in Liza’s world, in our world. There’s no changing them back. Do we believe that forward change will continue instead, leading us on to someplace new, someplace viable, someplace where things can grow once more?

Do you believe that spring will come? There’s a strange comfort simply in putting the question into words.

On one level, I know the answer, always have known it. If I didn’t believe, deep down, that spring—that the future—would come, writing a book where spring was called into question would have been too much to bear.

On another level, I need, just as deeply, to hear the question asked, and I need to travel the hard path toward its answer, again and again, not just in the books that I’ve written but also in the countless books that I’ve read through the years, ever since I knew how to read. Stories were the thing, after all, that got me trough childhood and adolescence and all that came after. Every misunderstood kid who had adventures and saved the world and found their place in that world was, in their way, another needed answer.

An answer, and also a map—the map Liza lacks—for what the journey might look like. Spring comes. Not always easily, not always painlessly, not always as quickly as we want or as we need, but in the end and at the last. Spring comes. Deep down, I know that.

After all, I’ve taken this journey before.

“The only way to cope with something deadly serious is to try to treat it a little lightly.”

1. I have a piece in the Weekly Humorist this week.

Buy My Book, It Will Protect You from the Coronavirus, Says Author Whose Public Appearances Have All Been Canceled

(For the record, I didn’t have any launches or appearances planned. But a great many authors have, and you should totally buy their books.)

2. Good Unicorn, Bad Unicorn.[Good

(Good Unicorn: “Feeling ill? Here, let me cure you with my magical horn.” 
Bad Unicorn: “Get your unicorn-purified hand sanitizer here—just $500 a bottle!”)

Hang in there, everyone.

Faerie Winter’s new edition

Faerie Winter

Faerie Winter has a new look—and new paperback and ebook editions! If you missed this sequel to Bones of Faerie the first time around, now is your chance to revisit Liza’s post-apocalyptic world and its treacherous, haunting magic.

Order the new Faerie Winter paperback online or from your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore (ISBN: 978-1798950708). Order the ebook edition from Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, or wherever ebooks are sold.

Missed the first book? You can still order the first edition of Bones of Faerie from your favorite offline or online bookseller, and you can still order the ebook wherever ebooks are sold.

More about Faerie Winter

Liza is a summoner. She can draw life to herself, even from beyond the grave. And because magic works both ways, she can also drive life away. Months ago, she used her powers to banish her dangerous father and rescue her mother, lost in dreams, from the ruined land of Faerie.

Born in the wake of the war between humanity and the fey, Liza lived in a world where green things never slept, where trees sought to root in living flesh and bone. But now the forests have fallen silent, and even Liza’s power can’t call them back. Winter crops won’t grow, and the threat of starvation looms.

And deep in the dying forest a dark, malevolent will is at work. To face it, Liza will have to find within herself something more powerful than magic alone.

This sequel to Bones of Faerie will thrill both new readers and fans eager to return to Janni Lee Simner’s unique vision of a postapocalyptic world infused with magic.

“Simner paints a hauntingly exquisite portrait of a postapocalyptic world. Fans of both fantasy and dystopian fiction will devour this one.” —School Library Journal

In Tucson? Book signing Saturday!

I’ll be signing the new paperback of Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer at Mostly Books this Saturday.

Where: Mostly Books, 6208 E. Speedway
When: Saturday, December 15, 2:30-4:00 p.m.

Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer coverStop by and get a copy personalized for the adventurer in your life—even if (especially if) that adventurer is you.

Copies of Bones of Faerie will also be available, and Jennifer J. Stewart will be signing her Twelve Days of Christmas in Arizona, which makes an excellent gift for out-of-town friends.

Can’t make the signing? You can find Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer in stock at both Mostly Books and Fourth Avenue’s Antigone Books.

Not in Tucson? You can also order Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer at your favorite local bookstore, or you can buy a copy online.

New in paperback: Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer

Tiernay West, Professional Adventurer coverTiernay West, Professional Adventurer is now in paperback!

Order a copy your favorite young adventurer online or from your favorite bricks-and mortar bookstore (ISBN 978-1719955553).

Originally published as Secret of the Three Treasures, this classic book about a would-be adventurer who isn’t about to let anything stop her has a new look and has been updated for a new generation of young readers.

Get one for the kid in your life today—and for yourself, too. For a limited time, when kindle users order the print book, they can add their own e-copy at no additional charge.

Do share with anyone in your life who might enjoy a bit of adventure this winter holiday season.

Dear Bully

The Dear Bully anthology, edited by Carrie Jones and Megan Kelly Hall,with essays from 70 different authors (including me) talking about their bullying experiences, is out this week.

My own bullying experiences–which didn’t involve any specific person, but pretty much my entire school, through elementary school and junior high–pretty much defined my school experiences. I’ve never made any secret of them, and I never saw them afterwards as a source of shame. In a strange way, I see them as a source of pride: because here I am, still standing and happy and living my life and no longer defined by those experiences; and also because through all those years I never gave up pieces of myself in an attempt to fit in, something many of my supposedly more fortunate classmates can’t say.

But I also don’t wish those experiences on anyone, which is why … even though it feels strangely exposing to share my story in so public a place … I knew I had to do so. I don’t honestly know how much difference a single anthology will make, but if we don’t try to do what we can we’ll make no difference at all, and even if all the book does is tell a handful of kids, hey, other people have gone through this too, that’s no small thing.

I’m grateful for all the work the editors put into gathering our narratives together. It’s no small task, and it was done entirely as a volunteer effort (all editor/author proceeds are going to the charity Stomp Out Bullying), and it’s good to see it out in the world.

“Many elves have indeed gone West, to Minnesota and thence to California …”

So back in the late 80s there was this wave of urban fantasy novels suddenly (it seemed to me at the time) coming out, pulling various bits of faerie and magic and fairy tales into the contemporary world in a way that I hadn’t quite seen done before. I remember it as beginning with War for the Oaks and Moonheart and Wizard of the Pigeons, and of spreading out from there, into many of the books that I devoured as they were passed around among my circle of college friends, books that seemed, well, just different from the books I’d devoured in high school. I kept reading these books as I graduated and started writing more seriously. I don’t remember when, amid all that reading, I first picked up Terri Windling’s Bordertown series, but it’s always been tied up in that time and those books, for me.

Which is why there was some serious squeeeing when I was invited to write a story for ellen-kushner and blackholly‘s new Welcome to Bordertown anthology. Because getting to play in Bordertown is, well, like getting to go back to the place I was when (before when) this whole writing journey began.

Earlier this week I had word that my story had been accepted for the anthology. I double-checked about five times, to make sure I’d understood properly, and to make sure no faerie dust had slipped in and changed the words.

Welcome to Bordertown is due out in 2011 from Random House, and I’m beyond thrilled to be there!

I guess it really is unicorn season

My short story “Lost or Forgotten” in online in the September issue of Semaphore Magazine, and is a very different sort of unicorn story from “Unicorn Season”:

Long ago, before the trees could speak, before the winds were fixed to the corners of the earth, a
unicorn loved a maiden.

He came to her, as she sat by his pool in the forest, and he laid his head in her lap. She stroked his
silver mane, looked into his silver eyes, and knew that she loved him as well.

Yet he was an immortal unicorn, and she a mortal child.

Also in this issue: camillealexa‘s poem, “Dear Zombie.”

Because sometimes, apparently, zombies and unicorns really do go together after all. 🙂

Tales of the Talisman

Didn’t get a chance before to mention that a copy of the current issue of Tales of the Talisman arrived just before I left town, with my story “Dragon Offerings” (illustrated by the most excellent cardigirl) within. 🙂

“I always listen,” Jenna told Aimee and me as she peeled her orange. “Always.”

Aimee rolled her eyes. She tossed an Oreo across the kitchen table; I caught it, twisted the halves apart, and scraped the cream filling out with my teeth. I added the chocolate wafers to the growing pile between us.

“Are you allowed to do that?” Jenna asked. It was her favorite question.

“It’s for the dragons,” Aimee said. Aimee and I had been leaving Oreos behind for years, since we were little and Aimee was afraid the dragons might eat her. I’d always known dragons didn’t eat people, and by now Aimee knew too, but that didn’t stop us. Neither did the fact that no dragon had ever claimed our chocolate offerings.

Tales of the Talisman has, by the way, won my lifelong admiration by being the only magazine ever to offer to me payment in dinosaurs. (Yes, of course I accepted. How can one not accept payment in dinosaurs?)

(ETA: I’ve also set up an lj feed for Talisman editor David Lee Summers’ blog, over at davidleesummers.)