Tinsley Scott isn’t having the greatest year. Her boyfriend refuses to let her meet his family, her mother is convinced she’s on drugs, and her little sister’s meddling has hit an all-time high. When she tries to run away from her problems, though, they only get worse. One accidental plunge through a puddle later and she finds herself in the mysterious Faewyld. There, she learns that she’s a changeling, the spirit of a dead Fae who took refuge in a mortal body. Now she has a whole other world she can escape to.
But being a long-lost fairy princess has its own set of problems. War, magic, betrayal… Death. Suddenly, passing calculus doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
Targeted Age Group:: 14-35
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I originally had the idea for a children’s book in the tradition of Mary Downing Hahn, where a young girl pretends to play with some fairies in the woods and slowly comes to believe that they are real until the reader doesn’t know whether they are or not. But then I watched a documentary on teen drug use and parental intervention and before I knew it the two ideas had become one.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
It sounds silly, but my characters tend to spring fully formed into my mind, like Athena. Very rarely do I have to sit down and “come up with” a character.
The pounding rhythm of the stereo flutters through my veins. My body sways gently to side as I wend my way through the packed house. I duck beneath cotton cobwebs stretched ridiculously across the dining room arch, suppressing a shudder at the plastic spiders hidden within. In the kitchen the counters are lined with red Solo cups sporting a rainbow array of drinks.
“Hey, Tinsley! You look kinda dry. Want some Kool-Aid?” Kool-Aid my ass. I smile and wave Tyler off before continuing my search. At the living room I lift up on my toes and carefully scan the crowd.
Tall. Lanky. Shaggy, black hair. It would probably be easier if I knew what costume he was going to wear. I let out a sigh and start to move to the hallway.
My nose twitches a second before strong hands wrap around my hips and twirl me in the air. My black and purple dress flutters in a circle, stirring up the scent of citrus, tobacco, and clover.
“Hey there, fairy-girl.”
He leans down to kiss me and the black stubble of his jaw scratches across my skin. He smells the way I imagine Ireland smells, plus or minus a beer. His fingers run through my own black hair, lifting it up and away from my neck to reveal a shock of violet.
“Very nice,” he says and I smile. My mom nearly had a stroke when I did it, but I love it. Besides, like I told her, it’s less permanent than a tattoo.
“You too,” I reply really looking at his costume for the first time. His gray button-down shirt is rolled at the cuffs. A striped vest is sits over that and a black, 3/4-sleeve blazer that looks like it came from the thrift store is on top of that. His pants are worn in places and he has chains looped loosely from his belt to his pockets. I laugh. “What’re you supposed to be?”
He shrugs. “I didn’t really know what to wear, so I just threw some things together.” Well, at least we match. Raggedy and Gothic.
We make our way out to where a bunch of other kids are dancing. My wings—made this morning from pantyhose, clothes hangers, and glitter—slow me down. I wish I could just make them appear and disappear on command. As it is, I have to be careful so that I don’t smack the spinning witch or snag them on a passing mummy.
For a little while we move together to songs we don’t know the words to. I laugh again as Sean tries to sing along, butchering the lyrics. Despite that, his voice is beautiful, deep and mesmerizing. I love to listen to him hum when we’re alone; the sound of him is like a spell. I move closer, drawn in by it now as much as at other times.
For a moment it’s just the two of us and a bad John Mayer song. Even that is fading as I drape my arms over his shoulders. He stoops to press his lips beside my ear. The warmth of his breath whorling against the shell sends shivers skittering down my spine.
Then reality crashes back in. A cold hand grabs my shoulder and I jump before turning to see the girl that invited us to the party. Lana gives me a wicked smile and motions for us to follow. With a sigh I fall into step behind her deceptively innocent Bo-Peep costume. It wouldn’t do to dis the hostess. I get invited to few enough parties as it is.
We duck into a little room behind the stairs. As we enter, I cough and wave a hand in front of my face. The room is filled with smoke, and not all of it is from cigarettes. Kids my age lounge around on pilfered pillows and chairs. It’s what I imagine an opium den looks like. Or possibly college.
Lana is handed a joint, and after taking a long hit, she holds it out to me. For a second I stare at it as if I don’t know what it is. What should I do? Half the room looks at me expectantly. My smile is nervous, but I put it between my lips. I pretend to take a drag, breathing to one side of the paper, then pass it back. Satisfied, Lana takes another puff and gives it to someone else.
I let out a breath and turn to see Sean’s reaction, but he isn’t behind me anymore. Where on Earth could he have gone? I want to go look for him, but I’m drawn farther inside the room by Lana. She slips her fingers through mine and asks if I’ve ever tried crystal before.
A few feet away I can see a couple of guys with a Bunsen burner and a roll of tin foil. One rips off a square and folds it up with origami precision, while the other takes apart some clicky pens, massacring them for their barrels.
“Hey, guys. How’s it hangin’?” Lana asks. The one dressed like a dog looks up at her, the low-burning flame reflecting off his glasses and obscuring his eyes.
“Who’s your friend?” he asks.
She tugs my hand up and around, giving me a little spin. I’m unprepared for it and nearly fall over. The murkiness of the air is beginning to get to me. My lungs feel as foggy as my head.
“This is Tinsley. She’s down for this, isn’t that right?”
Suddenly I don’t feel so well. I give her a feeble smile, but I can tell she knows something’s wrong. I lay my free hand across my stomach and pull my other from her grasp.
“Actually… I’m not feeling so… Where’s your bathroom?” She frowns, and I know any cool points I’ve built up are toast, but she doesn’t try to keep me.
“Top of the stairs. Hurry back.”
With a nod, I duck out of the room. Where is he? My hands clench at my sides. How dare he abandon me in there. A wave of dizziness passes over me as I stomp from room to room, and I shake my head to clear it. A wicked haze is creeping in and I want nothing more than to leave this so-called party.
Once more he’s the one to find me, but this time I’m not endeared or amused. “Why did you leave?” I demand with pursed lips.
“Junk like that has a really harsh effect on me. Besides, I didn’t think you were that kind of girl. I assumed that when I walked out you would, too.”
“I’m not ‘that kind of girl’ and you know it. You didn’t even tell me you were leaving! What was I supposed to think when I turned around and you were gone?”
“Come on, Tinsley. Don’t start. Let’s go for a walk and leave this party to the stoners.”
He’s right. My reputation will suffer enough for ditching the party, I don’t need a verbal altercation with my boyfriend on top of it. In silence we walk a few blocks down to the park. My anger is starting to die out and a chill is setting in. Goosebumps pebble the exposed flesh of my arms and chest. Sean tucks an arm around my shoulders, careful of my wings, and tries to rub some warmth into me. The gesture can’t help but sugar my soured mood.
Besides the trees dotted here and there, a strip of forest bisects the park. There are no streetlights out this way, and a mischievous thought trips through my brain. As we approach the darkened area a few yards from the tree line, I spin to face him. I walk backward a few steps until he stops, not an easy feat in heels.
Tipping my face up with a smile I say, “Kiss me.”
One corner of his mouth tilts up, a roguish look if ever there was one. I wrap my arms around him, pulling my frame against his. He turns my back against a nearby tree. The darkness of the shade hides us from prying eyes.
Our bodies slide against each other, the flimsy material of my costume catching on his vest buttons. He devours me, his hands gripping tighter with each passing minute. I feel like my insides are on fire. My hands fist in his hair, pulling him closer.
The silence of the night is broken by my ragged breathing as he tears his lips away from mine and scrapes them down my jaw to the hollow of my neck. I writhe beneath him and the roughness of the tree trunk bites into my back. I make a gasping noise and he lifts his face back to mine.
It’s been like this since day one. Ever since I let him kiss me the first time it’s like I can’t get enough. Like a drug I need an increasing dose of to maintain my high. Seventeen years of rote propriety are the only things that have kept us from going too far. Until now.
With a confidence I don’t really feel, I give him a hooded look. For the first time, I know I’m ready.
“Hey, why don’t we go back to your place? It’s getting kind of cold out here and I can think of a few ways to warm up.”
Suddenly his whole demeanor changes. He runs a hand through the back of his raven-wing hair and he falters back a half-step.
“Tinsley… I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“Why not? Come on. You know, we’ve been dating almost a year and I’ve never even been to your house.”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea, okay?”
Color flares to life under the honey color of my cheeks. With a mind of its own, my mouth keeps going, pushing ahead even as my gut tells me to shut the hell up. “As a matter of fact, I’ve never met your family either. Or your friends. Or been to where you work to afford those stupid imported cigarettes.”
I say the last as he shakes out a fresh one from a pack labeled Dúidín. Tears begin gathering along the edge of my kohled lashes. We bicker all the time—short, mouthy arguments that clear in miutes—but we’ve never had a real fight before. These are things have rolled through my brain for months unspoken. My voice lowers to a cracked whisper.
“Are you ashamed of me? Am I some kind of secret?”
“No! Of course not. I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Third time’s a charm. If he won’t give me a better answer than that, maybe we aren’t meant to be after all. Without another word I take off. There’s a shortcut to my house through the woods. Sean rough voice shouts my name, startling what birds were nested for the night into a cacophony of wings, but I don’t stop and he doesn’t follow. I keep up my pace until, suddenly, my face hits the ground.
Stupid heels. Stupid tree roots. Stupid boys.
As I raise myself up, I’m confronted by a pool of water. It hasn’t rained for weeks, but the puddle looks as crystal clear as if it had just formed. I inch forward, mesmerized. The surface is like green glass, smooth and reflective—except the lights I see inside aren’t stars. I lean in closer, hanging over the edge, trying to get a better look. Without warning, my hands lose their grip on the forest floor and I go tumbling head first into the water.
For the longest three minutes of my life I feel like Alice in Wonderland. I am both submerged in water and floating in air. Leaves caught in-between drift around me. For a moment, I totally expect to see floating shelves or clocks or jars of marmalade. Then, I land.
I’m completely dry, and for the most part undamaged. My brain is a little rattled and my butt hurts from landing on a pile of leaves. Well, that’s one thing from childhood ruined; leaves will not cushion your fall. I pick at the twigs snagging my dress and tights. I sense from the way they move behind me that my wings are toast.
With a groan I force my body to a stand, only to be surrounded by creatures, for creatures are what they are. Hardly indistinguishable from the trees themselves, these men or beasts make hooting and cawing and howling noises as they pin me in from all sides.
I’m too in shock to cry out, to try to run, to do anything but stare numbly as they attempt to tie me up. One, whose extreme bedhead is threaded through with giant feathers, pokes me with the blunt end of a spear. This is all so beyond bizarre that I can’t process it.
Then it hits me. There’s no other rational explanation. This is some really fucked-up dream. I must have hit my head in the fall or the fumes from the meth are taking effect or I accidentally inhaled that joint. These wild woodsmen aren’t real. They can’t hurt me.
I begin struggling and manage to throw off my bindings, but my would-be captives close in again. I fight and kick and claw but I can’t seem to break free. If I know I’m dreaming, shouldn’t I be able to control the dream?
With that thought, in that instant, they all back away in a singular direction then turn toe and flee. Pleased with myself, I pick off the forest detritus that clings to my skin and clothes. Then I hear metal sliding against wood.
I tense and peek up. Twenty feet away there’s a dude pulling a sword out of the heart of a sapling. He slides it back in its sheath and strides forward. He isn’t so much a knight in shining armor as a knight in leafy armor. The plates of his suit are shaped like stylized leaves, complete with veining, and motled in shades of green and copper.
My eyes drift upward as my jaw falls in the opposite direction. He has platinum hair that falls with perfect straightness to his broad shoulders, and his eyes are the color of heliodor, a luminescent golden-green. He speaks to me as he approaches and it only serves to confirm my theory. So this is what a trip is like.
“Fair maiden, are you hurt?” His gaze oozes concern, so I dust my hands together and toss a shoulder.
“Nah. I’m fine. Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
His expressive eyes grow wide. “Your wings!” He rushes forward like he’s going to perform CPR or something. I reach back with both hands and rip the tattered remnants from my back.
“Well, let’s be honest,” I say, “it’s not like I spent a lot of money on them.”
He stops dead in his tracks, maybe two feet from me. A look of both horror and fascination stretches across.0+ his perfect face.
“You… You are a human.”
“Duh. What’re you, leaf-boy, some kind of alien?”
“We must get you to the king and queen. My steed is this way. Hurry.”
I shrug and let him lead me off. You know, as one does in a dream. He vaults onto a muscular brown stallion with shaggy feet and curly hair. Once seated he hauls me up behind him and makes a clicking noise. Without further instruction, the beast gallops off. My breath catches and my heart is in my throat as we whip through the forest at a crazy speed.
After what feels like forever the trees ahead illuminate, their silhouettes stark against the lights. Just beyond, a humongous city emerges.
There are walkways that wind around trees and lead up to branch-supported houses. On the ground are stone buildings, intricately carved and half covered in moss and vines. And in the distance a palace rises just like an illustration from a fairytale.
I cling tightly to the knight’s waist, watching the people of the city with wide eyes. At first glance their clothes look like standard ren-faire garb. But on closer inspection I see much of the layers and fabrics are made up of natural things. Flowers, leaves, grass. I swear I even see one lady wearing a top edged in live dragonflies.
We arrive at the castle and my knight dismounts, then lifts me down. It occurs to me that I still don’t know his name. I open my mouth to ask, but grooms hurry forward to take his saddle and lead the horse away. As they rush around us I notice for the first time that every single one has pointed ears. I turn to look at the knight and for the first time I notice tips of pink porcelain peeking through his hair.
“Are you an elf?” I ask with stunned awe as he takes my arm to escort me under the portcullis. He frowns and we walk up a set of stone stairs.
“What is an elf?”
At a huge set of double doors, he leans in and whispers something to a guard. The guard jumps to attention, salutes, and slips into a closed room. Almost immediately the doors open and a flood of… Well, of fairies walk out.
They look just like the people in town, but most of them have wings in every color and shape sprouting from their backs. They mutter among themselves and cast us surreptitious glances, but I can’t make out much more from them than a feeling of rumpled pride. As the last of them leave, the guard from before beckons us forward.
The knight, whose name I still don’t know, steps into the room and I trail behind. With a snap the doors close and I jump at the sound. The chamber before us is huge. Columns of living birch buttress the vaulted ceiling, itself a crazy pattern of beams weaving together like flower bursts. Moss trails like a carpet runner from our position at the door up to a dais where two gilded thrones sit side-by-side.
“Orlan!” proclaims a woman who looks to be my mother’s age. Well, that answers my question about his name. She steps down from her perch and holds her arms out. Dark auburn hair spills in ringlets across the shoulders of a gown made entirely of blossoms. Wisteria, hydrangeas, lilacs, nasturtiums, and roses in various shades of purple all weave together. Golden designs decorate the edges of her glass-green eyes and trail down a tanned arm to twine around her fingers. Atop her head sits a garden of brassy flowers, climbing up into silver stars, the whole thing studded with diamonds the size of pearls.
Despite the grandeur and intricacy of everything I’ve seen, nothing prepares me for the giant wings sprouting out of her back. They’re massive! Even bigger than the wings of the people who’d just left. Branches stretch out from her skin, holding up multi-layered butterfly wings in clover and bronze. They stream behind her as she continues to walk forward. I shrink back toward the closed doors. Deep inside a fear is growing that my previously benign trip is about to take a nasty turn.
“Your majesty,” the knight replies. He bows deeply. She lowers her arms and sets her face in a more formal frame.
“Grimmory said you had something sensitive to tell us. Something that could not wait.”
Us? I peek around and see what must be the king, slowly making his way down the steps in his wife’s wake. His suit is made of an ordinary enough gray fabric. It’s the shirt beneath the vest and the cloak that trails behind him that set him apart. The former appears to be made entirely of small white feathers and the later of gigantic ostrich plumes. The crown he wears atop his black hair and salted beard is similar to the queen’s, only with much larger flowers and diamonds culminating in a sphere with a finial. Behind him eight dragonfly wings lazily flutter in iridescent darkness.
“Yes, your majesty. I bring news of the Korrigan. I am afraid there can be no doubt that they are using faerie-pools. To what end, I know not. But just today I rescued a human from their clutches.”
The queen’s eyes grow wide as she focuses on me for the first time. In fact, all six eyes turn on me. I can feel my skin flushing bright red.
“Come forward, child.”
With awkward steps I make my way before the two royals. What will they want with me? I’m really ready to wake up at this point. Unlike in the forest, though, my wish doesn’t immediately come true. I’m still in the massive throne room, being stared down by three complete strangers.
“What is your name?”
“Tinsley,” I reply as cordially as I can, but the game is growing old. “Look, I’m sure you’re all very lovely people, but I just want to go home.”
“We can arrange that as soon as you tell us what happened in the forest, dear. How did you come by the Faewyld?”
With a sigh that comes out more as a huff, I reach up and pull my hair back with the purple scrunchy I keep around my wrist. Clearly they haven’t invented air conditioners yet.
“I was just running through the woods—which was a pretty stupid thing to do in these shoes, let’s be honest—when I fell. Then there was this puddle and these lights and… Hey, are you listening?”
Both the king and queen are staring at me, but this time they aren’t staring at me, they’re staring at just one part of me. My shoulder. Suddenly self-conscious, I regret putting my hair up.
My mother says it started when I was a baby. At first it was just a dark spot against the bronze of my skin, but then lines began to spiral out. They took me to a doctor, but he said it was just a late developing birthmark, or too much melanin, or something. On a good day I believe my best friend Dinah when she says it looks like a giant flower. On a bad day I wear a turtleneck.
“What? Haven’t you ever seen a birthmark before?”
The queen answers slowly, her eyes finally breaking away and meeting mine. Her words are careful, her steps towards me unsure. Am I crazy, or does her bottom lip tremble?
“Yes. On my daughter.”
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