Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Ridiculously Huge Project

All right, I have promised to give you a post detailing SOME of what's going on with this Ridiculously Huge Project of mine. So this is that post! I hope you'll enjoy it.

During this period of (not by preference) leaving Goldstone Wood alone for the time being, I really needed something absolutely fantastic and gripping into which I might throw my creative efforts. I had already been brainstorming an interesting concept with Rohan, and when the time came to make that difficult decision to set Poison Crown aside, I had this idea already in the background. Pulling it forward and dusting it off, I gave it another thorough look and decided I liked what I saw.

First thing's first: Why is it called The Ridiculously Huge Project?

Because it is twelve books long.

Well, that's not so very different from what I've been doing already with Goldstone Wood (which is planned at fifteen books, innumerable novellas, and at least two potential spin-off series). So why is THIS project Ridiculously Huge?

Because I'm trying to write all twelve books in one year.


Let me clarify: I am trying to write twelve rough drafts in one year. These drafts are all supposed to between 50,000 and 60,000 words long, so not as big as a polished book. (The polished books should each be between 80,000 and 100,000 words long.) Still, there are twelve of them, so it's a bit intimidating.

The idea, however, is to have all twelve rough drafts complete before I go back and begin polishing the earlier books. That way, as I'm doing polished drafts, I know exactly what needs to go in each book so that story lines and character arcs all naturally lead from one book to the next. The hope is to spend no more than a month or so polishing each manuscript, so that in the long run--let's say two and a half years from now--I might have twelve decently polished manuscripts.

Is this doable? I don't know. This whole thing is a great big (and somewhat ridiculous) experiment. However, I think it might actually just be possible to do it. And you know what? I'll never know until I try . . .

How am I going to go about making something like this doable? Well, I have certain rules that I am following as I conduct this experiment:

Rule 1: Create solid outlines for each story. Actually, I've already done that. All twelve stories are outlined in significant detail so that story lines and character arcs all point in the right direction. I didn't begin writing Book 1 before I knew what was going to happen at the end of Book 12.

Rule 2: I'm giving myself approximately 15 writing days to finish each draft. That's three work weeks (I don't write on the weekends). If at the end of day 12 I'm nowhere near the climax and resolution, I will summarize the in-between material and write the climax and resolution. That way--though very, VERY rough--I still have a complete rough draft of each story at the end of 15 work days.

Rule 3: I'm not allowing myself to reread material as I go along. I'm allowed to reference the outlines and notes as much as I need, but no going back and fiddling with earlier portions of the manuscript or earlier books either. This would slow me down and defeat the whole purpose of this experiment, which is to have 12 rough drafts at the end of a year. This rule is a bit hard to follow . . . and I have broken it a TINY bit here and there, rereading small portions. But I don't allow for revisions as I go.

The idea is that, allowing for blah-days when the words just won't come, sick days, unforeseen interruptions, etc. I can still get at least one full draft done each month. Again, is this truly possible? I don't know. But so far, I'm on track to finish a draft of book 2 by the end of this month, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Here are some things that I have discovered while writing the first book and a half of The Ridiculously Huge Project.

Discovery 1: I cannot consistently write 5,000 words a day. I CAN consistently write 4,000 words a day. But just 1,000 more, and I'm too tired at day's end to function. Can't do anything. Can't smile at my husband. Can't take the dog for a run. Can't make dinner. Can't really do anything except sit around going, "Mehhhh."

Now the occasional 5,000 word day is not a problem. My record is 9,000 in a single day, which I was able to do when the inspiration was REALLY keen. On similarly inspired days, 5,000 words is completely doable.

I'm talking about a regular work day. Sitting down and working normal hours on ordinary, everyday sort of inspiration. When the Muse is absent and I am simply doing my job. Which is, to be honest, what most days are.

So yeah . . . I've learned I cannot expect extraordinary word count on an ordinary work day. If I have those bursts of more than 4,000 words, then great. Otherwise, I am planning the whole project around the understanding that 4,000 words is my average.

Discovery 2: I find it very hard not to go back and reread what I've done the previous day. HOWEVER, when trying to write twelve rough drafts in a single year, it's important to NOT go back and look at what I've done the previous day. Period. I have a solid outline which I am allowed to check and even tweak as I go along to keep me relatively in line. Otherwise, when I sit down to work, there's no recapping allowed. I simply have to make NEW WORDS HAPPEN.

The result is a pretty hodge podge by the end of the draft. I decided partway through Book 1 that I needed one character to go from being a pious elderly priest to being a lecherous peasant farmer instead. So in the first chapter in which this character is introduced, he is an pious elderly priest. Several chapters later, the same character is now a lecherous peasant farmer. It doesn't make for very smooth reading, but I AM NOT ALLOWED TO GO BACK AND ALTER MY DRAFT. I have to keep going.

Because, really, you know what? Why should I bother polishing and refining a rough draft? I might change my mind again later on, and that lecherous peasant farmer might suddenly need to be a pious elderly priest again. Or a milkmaid. Or an acrobat . . . I don't know! It's a rough draft.

And it will ALL get polished out in the SECOND draft. Along with all the other inconsistencies, big and small. But if I stop now and try to make everything perfect . . . well, by the time I'm drafting book 6, I might come across a new premise that necessitates going back and doing another rewrite on book 1. I'd rather save myself the trouble.

Is this how I've written before? No, indeed. I tend to be a polish-as-I-go sort. But this is inefficient writing, usually obliging me to polish the same scene several times over when, if I had simply pushed on and discovered everything I needed to BEFORE going back to rewrite, I would have saved myself time and effort.

Ultimately, the goal is to have twelve beautifully POLISHED manuscripts in as few drafts (and as little time) as possible. Thus the great experiment that is The Ridiculously Huge Project.

Discovery 3: It's HARD to write in a whole new world! No Faerie Paths. No Wood Between. No Lumé and Hymlumé, no Southlands or Parumvir, no Eanrin, no Sphere Songs . . . I'm in unfamiliar territory, and it's very strange indeed.

I hadn't realized until starting this project how much I depended on knowing my world so thoroughly. I haven't had to invent an entire new world and new magic system before, not to mention a new history, new societies, etc. I keep waffling back and forth between setting these books in an alternate history version of our world or creating a new fantasy world of my own. Still haven't decided. I'm rough drafting both ways to see what I like and what suits the stories best. Leaning toward alternate history right now, but we'll see what happens.

So, yeah. There's tremendous amounts of invention that I've not had to deal with while writing Goldstone Wood books. So much from-the-ground-up creation. It's weird. It's also kind of cool. While I've lost the safety of a familiar world, I've also lost any restrictions. Particularly while doing these crazy rough drafts! The sky is the limit, and I can seriously do whatever I want.

Not having specific boundaries is a struggle all its own, however. I'm finding that the more I solidify the world and refine the details, the more fun I'm having with the actual drafting. It's all a great stretch for the imagination.

And I keep experiencing weird sensations of "disloyalty." Like I'm cheating on Goldstone Wood with another series. And sometimes, I'm actually resentful at this project . . . which is unfair, because it can't help not being Goldstone Wood, and it really does have its own fine qualities to offer up.


And there you have it, dear readers. The Ridiculously Huge Project in a nutshell.

Leaving out all revelation of plot and characters, of course.

But they're coming. I'm still learning them myself right now, so I definitely don't feel ready to introduce them to all of you. Maybe in a few months. Maybe next year.

Each month, however, I will be including little tidbits about research and writing details in the ongoing Doings at Drakenheath posts, so you can keep an eye on those if you are curious.

This should also give you a pretty good idea why I'm not posting on this blog as much and have officially taken at least a month off of Facebook (Rohan changed my password, so I can't get on even if I want to!). I'm fairly well swallowed in this project all day, every day, and rather expect to be swallowed for months to come. I am enjoying this period of intense creativity.

Well, enjoying might be the wrong word. It's hard work. Very hard work indeed, and I'm pretty tired a lot of the time while doing it. And the beginning stages of a huge endeavor are always the hardest. Right now, even the halfway point is beyond the far horizon, and that can be a bit discouraging if I allow myself to think about it.

So, one book at a time. One day at a time. But with big goals and big dreams always in mind. And we'll see what this turns into . . .

Monday, September 21, 2015

Doings at Drakenheath

Lumé love me, we're more than halfway through September already! Not sure how I feel about that . . . This year just keeps getting away from me. Not that it hasn't been a productive year, but I never quite feel that I make it through all the various tasks I have planned.

Anyway, the time has come for the newest Doings at Drakenheath post, and I hope all of you will enjoy seeing what we've been up to and what is currently on the horizon.

First of all . . . The Ridiculously Huge Project.

I introduced this project last month and have been working on it steadily ever since. I finished the rough draft of Book 1 in just 12 writing days, which pleased me, since my goal was 14.

However, the draft is VERY rough indeed, and I am already brewing such significant changes come the second draft that I rather doubt much of the original material will remain. Oh, well. At least there is a draft in existence.

I have moved on to Book 2 now and am making good progress on it. This draft is a little bit stronger than the draft of Book 1, though it is still much of it very rough. I had boasted some rather grandiose hopes of finishing this rough draft in the same amount of time it took me to do Book 1, but I'm already seeing that as highly unlikely. Because this draft is more polished than the last, it is by necessity bigger and more detailed, so it will take a bit more time.

Anyway, I plan to write up an actual post about The Ridiculously Huge Project sometime in the next week or so, so I'll save details about the project for that post. Though I did promise you monthly glimpses as the development, and I haven't forgotten!

Lights of the Alhambra
This month's glimpse is another research glimpse. I have been spending quite a lot of time researching the Alhambra in southern Spain as inspiration for a particular setting in Book 2. My own palace/city/fortification--called the Vanaruz--is not actually in southern Spain, but the influences are similar. I am even including a park of imported elm trees such as you see surrounding the Alhambra in this picture on the right. This elm park is said to be full of nightingales, so I am swiping that idea as well, particularly since its a detail that fits so neatly into the theme of this book.

Yesterday I spent time researching the Alhambra's four outer gates, their names, when they were built, for what purposes they were used. Details like this, when rearranged to suit one's own story, add a lot of authentic flavor to a world. Much of my concentration has been going to the actual world building at this stage, and while I do some research before beginning a project, I end up doing most of my research along the way as I encounter details that need expanding.

So that's enough about The Ridiculously Huge Project for now. Stay tuned for a more extensive post concerning this project, due to appear soonish on this blog . . .

Did you enjoy the September Show and Tell? I know I did. It was so exciting to see all those different variations on "Sleeping Beauty" currently in development. All of them looked intriguing, and there were several that particularly stood out to me as stories I can hardly wait to read (though I won't say which ones . . . assume it was yours, dear competitor!).

We are now beyond the halfway mark for this contest. Still PLENTY of time to finish up those stories. But its not too long now before the clock will start ticking . . .

Personally, I'm really looking forward to the END of the contest, since I don't get to read the submissions when the first come in (they go out to my team of readers first, and they pick their top five favorites to send to me). So I won't actually get to start reading Magic Spindles stories until January . . . though I may beg a peek or two early, if opportunity arises.

So, in un-bookish-related news . . . we have a new rescue kitty!

Meet Little Miss Muffet.

This pretty little girl was dumped in our neighborhood, I'm not sure how long ago. While my husband and I were out for a stroll a few weekends back, she came out of the woods and started meowing and flirting, trying to get our attention. She was very scared of Milly (my big black doggy), so I sent Rohan on ahead with her so that I could try to make friends with the poor kitty.

Little Miss was VERY ready to be rescued. She let me pick her right up and carry her all the way home. She had to live for the first two weeks on our screened-in back porch, as she was covered in fleas and had to get her vaccinations. But I have a great animal rescue group in the Raleigh area to work with, and they got me right into their program.

Evil Looks Down from Above
Now Little Miss is de-wormed, de-fleaed, up to date on all of her shots, and happily living in our home while we search for a perfect forever family for her. She's still not a fan of Milly, and my other kitties, despite being very used to having other cats in the house, are not particularly welcoming to a newcomer. Believe it or not, Minerva Louise (aka, The Evil One) is my most gentle cat when dealing with a newbie, so I let her and Little Miss hang out together in my office for a supervised period most mornings. I can't say they truly interact with one another. But sometimes that's a good thing where kitties are concerned . . .

Say a prayer that we'll find a good home for Little Miss, if you think of it. We love her and are happy to take care of her, but she will be MUCH happier in a home of her own where she can be the only princess.

Rohan and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary just a few days ago! Most of you probably saw that, as it was the previous post, but I'll share a picture of us on the actual day too. My sweet handsome guy took me to Raleigh's oldest (and fanciest) steakhouse, Sullivan's, to celebrate, so we had to dress up. Not really a hardship for us, since we both like fancy dressing and fancy dining! I thought you might particularly like seeing the necklace I wore, which was a gift from my brother and his wife. It's got a distinctly Goldstone Wood-esque vibe, I'm thinking!

We have a lot of fun together, and our anniversary was no exception. We had hoped to do a little trip to celebrate the milestone of five years, but . . . well, we might have a much BIGGER trip coming up in another month or so, which means we need to save our vacation days! I won't say too much now (I'll save it for the next Doings post), but it looks like Rohan and I might be jumping "over the pond" very soon. Waaaaaay over the pond . . . (And we're getting seriously excited about it!)

 Oh, and I got a new haircut, which you can also see making its debut in these pictures. Just some layers and bangs, which is a fun change for me. It was getting reeeeeeeally long, and while I love long hair in theory, it tends to start looking heavy around my face. This cut gives my hair a little more bounce, and I feel prettier than I have in a long while. Ah! The restorative power of a good haircut . . .

Progress is still being made on both the Draven's Light audiobook and the Five Enchanted Roses audiobook. I hope to see both of them launched before the end of the year, though I'm not ABSOLUTELY certain this will be possible. It all depends on whether or not I get a chance to sit down and listen through both of them the several times necessary before hitting the "approve" button. Well over 20 hours worth of listening, not always easy to find time for. But one way or the other, both of these products are in the works and sounding awesome, so we'll be sharing them eventually.

And, believe it or not, I am actually in the very beginning stages of planning another little story. Not sure if anything will come of it, but I've been brainstorming both with Rohan and with my mother, (award-winning and bestelling novelist Jill Stengl, who knows a thing or two about brainstorming!), and they are both very keen for me to pursue it. I won't say too much about it just now, save that it's a children's book, so MUCH shorter than anything else I've ever done. And it's not a fantasy. I'll see if it goes anywhere before I reveal too much more about it, but it's definitely a Doing that is taking up some of my mental processes.

My plan is to finish drafting Book 2 in The Ridiculously Huge Project, and then take a week off from that to see if I can't rough up a quick draft of this children's book idea. I've got an outline that I like a ton, and while it will probably take me more than a week to write, I hope to get most of it done very quickly indeed. So we'll see. If that week goes well, I MIGHT be introducing this little story to all of you sooner rather than later. If it doesn't go well, I might scrap the whole thing, so we will see . . .

But, one way or the other, I'm only going to take a week to play with it, because I CANNOT SLOW DOWN on The Ridiculously Huge Project. Not and make my goals. (But more on that later.)

Wow, things look much calmer in this Doings post than they have in many of my other posts! Not quite so many irons in the fire at once, which is nice. Gives me time to really focus, at least for this period, on my writing itself. Sometimes, with ALL of the things I'm juggling, I begin to feel as though the Writer in me gets a little buried. So I really have to take advantage of clearer space when I get it!

So what has your September been like, dear Imps? Are you working away on your Five Magic Spindles stories? I'm sure many of you are back in school full throttle now, both as students and as teachers. Any specific plans for things you hope to accomplish in the next month? Do tell! I am all ears . . .

Friday, September 18, 2015


I know I posted a LOOOOOONG post about our wedding last year, so there's really no need to reiterate it now. (You can see that post here if you like. It was fun to put together, and I hope you'll enjoy it.)

However, Rohan and I are celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary today. So, in honor of this momentous occasion, I thought I should post at least one picture of us in our wedding clothes!

Such a perfectly beautiful day! And five perfectly beautiful years with this perfectly beautiful man. The longer I am his wife, the more I appreciate his sweetness, his humor, his work ethic, his patience . . . not to mention his handsomeness.

(Yeah, I know, I'm a bit shallow. But he's awfully pretty!)

God could not have blessed me with a more wonderful partner with whom to navigate the waters of this life.

Okay, one more picture, just 'cause I love this one:

Five years is just the beginning of what I hope will be a long and adventurous love story.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Welcome, readers and writers, to the September Show and Tell. For those of you who don't know, today's post is a compilation of working titles, synopsis, opening lines, and inspiration boards for various authors participating in the Five Magic Spindles creative writing contest, hosted by Rooglewood Press. We are now midway through the contest period, with the deadline of December 31 just starting to become visible on the horizon. It was my thought that the writers could use a little boost of inspiration about now . . . so here you have it!

Keep in mind that most of these stories are still in a state of development, and even titles are subject to change. But I personally find it very exciting to catch a glimpse of these works-in-progress, and I hope all of you will too.

And who knows? It might be that several of those listed here today will end up in the final collection. I think it's pretty likely, don't you?

Enjoy browsing all of this great content, and make certain you take a moment to leave an encouraging word or two to the authors themselves. And if you are a writer and you hadn't yet thought of participating in one of our contests . . . maybe this will prove just the jolt of inspiration that you need.

 Dreams of Fate

Princess Alina has much to be concerned about. Not only is she going to meet her betrothed for the first time, but also the dreams she's been having lately are becoming more frequent. Before she meets her betrothed, however, her father the king is placed under a spell, and now her kingdom is on the brink of war. Alina must journey to the kingdom of faerie and find a cure for her father. But once she gets there she will have a few surprises in store for her. And a decision she will soon have to make will affect both kingdoms. Lies, betrayal, temptation, forbidden love . . . will Alina overcome these challenged and make the right decision when the time comes?


I entered the room quietly, knowing my nurse, Emma, was in the next room, and wouldn't be pleased if she caught me sneaking around.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Kahrs has not had anything published as of yet, but hopes someday soon she will. She is currently working on her general studies at NSCC before transferring to Bowling Green State University, majoring in history creative writing. She is also working part time at Sauder Village as a costume interpreter, and working part time at her college library. When she is not working, studying, or writing, she enjoys reading, singing, dancing, and playing with her cats. She lives with her parents and brother and little sister outside her home town, Wauseon, Ohio.


The Brightest Thread

Princess Alucinora never asked for her gifts--nor did she ask for a curse. Trapped in slumber while the kingdom falls into chaos, all she has left are her dreams. And somewhere far away, a prince is dreaming too.


Not in centuries had the mountains rung with such gladness. Aleida tilted her face toward the sun and smiled. The road winding up the mountain slopes was choked with bodies, nobles and country folk alike, all traveling to the castle for the celebration. Their lively chatter echoed against the crags.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tracey Dyck has been working on a YA fantasy series for the past seven years, with smaller projects filling in the cracks, like her Rooglewood contest entries. She may or may not have a dragon living in her basement. You can find her rambles about life, writing, and all things story-related over at her blog, Adventure Awaits.

The Caver's Kiss

Having finished his last semester of college, Amos Prince plans to spend his summer exploring remote caves before settling down to the next phase of his life--whatever that may be. But he gets more of an adventure than he bargained for when he enters a secluded cave, shrouded in the local legend of Sleeping Beauty.


"You know, you're the first man who has ever asked me to show him where these caves are." My guide hung his thumbs in his belt loops and peered over my shoulder.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Esther Brooksmith loves caves. After visiting Grand Caverns as a little girl, she spent hours imagining she lived there. I expect, in some subtle way, that influenced her first-ever retelling of Sleeping Beauty. But caves are not her only love; you can learn more about her and her writing at The Pen of a Ready Writer.


Once Upon a Dream

A Dream Guardian and a student at Cormont's foremost university, Alexander is certain of a comfortable future. But when a mysterious young lady appears in his dreams, pleading for rescue from a peril she can't recall, Alexander's well-laid plans begin to unravel. As he uncovers the secrets of this strange woman, he is faced with a dilemma: when love demands sacrifice, how much is he willing to give? 


Our story begins as do most tales: with a dream. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah is known by various names, but all of them mean her. A homeschooled teenager, she's been devouring books and telling stories in one form or another for as long as she can remember, but she started seriously writing five years ago, with a retelling of Snow White inspired by one of Gail Carson Levine's writing challenges. She can be found in various internet realms, but most easily on her blog, Dreams and Dragons, where she posts about books, fandoms, writing, photography, and life in general.

Freeze/Thaw (working title)

When Owen signed up for an archaeology trip to a melting glacier, he expected the ice and the hard work. What he didn't expect was the mummy that woke up overnight or her magic ring. But she wasn't the only one to awaken on the glacier, and it won't be long before evil comes for them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Selina has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember. While she spent her college and graduate school years pursuing a love of science, writing and literature have always been true loves as well. Five Magic Spindles would be her first published work of fiction, though she is currently working on publishing book one in the fantasy series, This Curse. Selina lives around central and southeastern Pennsylvania and spends her free time with her cat, Annika, and visiting with her family.

Visit her blog, Paper Cranes.


In a galaxy far from our own, a planet trembles under the forces of good and evil. Every member of its society is subject to the age-old pact with the lab known as SPINDLE, which periodically reaps the planet for test subjects or "sleeping beauties." Can Mikaya escape their clutches? Or will she, too, be subject to one hundred years of tortured sleep? 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Esther Brooksmith has been telling stories since she could talk. Putting them to paper has been a developing process, which started with the mastery of the pencil and improved at a rapid pace with the discovery of typing. She keeps a blog, which she uses to hone her writing skills and connect with other word-lover. You can find her at The Pen of a Ready Writer.

The Rose-Covered Cabin

In the Old West town of Mortimer Junction, a discontented widow hires an aloof gunman to get revenge on a neighbor who refuses to marry her. But when the neighbor's daughter intervenes, disaster strikes. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When she's not writing, Rachel Kovaciny passes the time by reading, watching movies, and homeschooling her three children. She blogs about books at The Edge of the Precipice, and about movies, writing, and life in general at Hamlette's Soliloquy.

I Once Dreamed

Far off in the countryside of the kingdom of Ashindust lies the charming estate and castle of Hazelbend. Little do passers-by know that terrified servants, a treacherous butler, and a lonely lady are trapped inside . . .


Lady Faerydae of the middlemost part of the kingdom of Ashindust had always been a rather sensible girl, and, upon being offered the courtship of the wise Duke Berwick, had determined that it would be save both her father's failing tailoring business and herself the trouble of waiting for another man to offer his hand in marriage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Olivia K. R. Fisher makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her parents, two dogs, and university-attending boarder. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, Celtic music, and hot chocolate, and practices the arts of gardening, painting, and baking. Though Olivia currently does not have any published works, she hopes too soon and writes often. To learn more about Olivia and her offered writing advice, book reviews, and such, visit A Sapphire Chamber.

The Bridge of Dreams

A mother's quest for vengeance . . . two estranged kingdoms . . . a forbidden love . . . a mysterious frog . . . and a dark curse.

Princess Brayleigh is a ray of hope to all who know her, the long-awaited answer to her parents' prayers. When the princess is cursed at her christening feast, a chain of events is set in motion. Her fiercely-loving parents strive to keep the princess safe. Yet as Brayleigh grows up, she often feels confined. When Brayleigh meets a kindhearted prince from a neighboring kingdom, her life will never be the same. When Brayleigh and her prince become trapped within an enchantment, a gift of true love might be the only hope for freedom. 


When something precious is taken away, you remember the oddest things. I remember my daughter's hands. They danced delicately as they performed daily tasks. I especially loved to watch Tahlia spin. Tahlia's life stretched before her like gossamer thread. Then on a day of joy, the thread of her life was broken.

I first thought to take the prince's life. Yet I was unable to do so. Something prevented me. Was it cowardice? Was it the fact that killing him would dishonor Tahlia's name? Perhaps it was the pleading look in his father's eyes. I do not know. However, death is not the only means of making a person pay. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Meredith Leigh Burton is a speaker and author who lives in Lynchburg, Tennessee. A graduate of the Tennessee School for the Blind and Middle Tennessee State University, she loves educating other about disabilities. She is the author of three fantasy novels, Crimilia, The Jarah Portal, and Soral's Rising. She is a voracious reader and enjoys any type of fairy tale retelling. Her other hobbies include singing, teaching Sunday school to young children, and spending time with family and friends.

Visit Mereidth at

Kiss My Eyes

There was an unexpected guest at my birth. That guest was a malignant tumor.
I know what you're thinking: This is a cancer story. I wouldn't want to read it either, so let's not do that.
Let's pretend . . . pretend that I'm not lying in this stark room that breathes anesthetic.
That I'm not a fourteen year old girl facing an operation that will either save my life or claim it.
Let's pretend I'm a princess. A cursed princess, who is facing a hundred year sleep. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I am a twenty-one year old starving artist, who spends my days dreaming and writing. Visit me at my blog, Ink Castles. Also visit the Pinterest board for Kiss My Eyes.

Poison Kiss

Everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty falls asleep with the prick of a spindle and is awakened by True Love's Kiss--but this time, it's the kiss that will be the curse, and the spinning wheel is to be the salvation. Alas, but it's not as simple this way around.


The king wasn't even surprised when the old fairy stormed into the banquet hall. After all, he'd already received notice that his daughter was to be the next Sleeping Beauty, and he had neglected Olgerta's invitation on purpose. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kendra E. Ardneck is a homeschooled author obsessed with fairy tales. Her debut, Sew, It's a Quest, did in fact begin as a Sleeping Beauty retelling. When she's not writing, she's usually knitting. Stop by and visit her blog, Knitted by God's Plan. Also visit the Pinterest board for Poison Kiss.

The Eternity Ring

On the eve of Kita Thal-Yona's Name Day, a curse is unleashed on the royal family of Lokire. An ancient Fire Daemon, enforcer of a covenant made over a century ago between the Haevel clan and a past Emperor, arrives in the service of the insurrectionists as they threaten to bring the Yona Dynasty to its knees. Together with Grekor, an outcast Haevel son, Kita must seek out the mystery of the Lightning-Hand, who may be the only hope of breaking the curse and defeating the Haevel clan before the entire Empire is consumed in a tide of blood and flames.


A shadow flickered across autumn's waning sickle-moon, and a noise like thunder rumbled in the near distance.

"What was that?" Xenos rolled to a crouch, all the leisure evaporated from his limbs.

The great windows at the head of the library exploded inward, shattering the still of the night and flinging a thousand crystal shards toward them.

Kita dove left behind the nearest shelf, crushed between the floor and Tauro's weight as he and Grekor leapt after her. Across the passage, she caught a glimpse of Xenos and Etilun's pale faces as they sheltered beneath the opposite bookshelf, spared for the most part as the spears of glass rained around them. Xenos cradled an angry spark in one hand. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kayla is a nearly-twenty homeschool graduate, bent on leaving a mark for her Saviour through her gifts of music and writing. She has been a voracious reader since the tender age of six, and loves to seek out the threads of Truth hidden in Story. When she isn't scribbling or dreaming up stories, Kayla is often to be found managing her houseful of younger siblings, teaching voice and violin in her private studio, performing on stage, or working behind the desk as a librarian. Visit her blog, The Scribbler. Also see the Pinterest board for The Eternity Ring.


Guardian of Our Beauty

For as long as she can remember, clear-eyed Palli has known that the fate of her city depends on her. Cursed by an angry magician, blessed by a mysterious traveler, and defended by three mighty allies, Palli will fall asleep on her wedding day. But more perils are in play than the ill-speaking of one disgruntled sorcerer. Can Palli's curse be turned into the salvation of her city?


And it happened in the days of the great heroes, in the years of the warrior-shepherds, that the king of Gubla had no son. He took young wives and old wives, rich wives and poor wives, wives from the country and wives from the city. He sent for wives from Piyampetcha to the north, and from Tsora to the south. (He even begged a wife from the King of the Four Quarters, the master of the Black-Headed People; but the Great King did not send him a wife. The Great King did not even receive the king of Gubla's messenger.) But no matter how many wives the king of Gubla wed, they bore only daughters. Daughters and more daughters.

"How can I live? I'm drowning in daughters!" the king complained to his chief priest. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  When she isn't reading articles about the ancient Near East or deciphering texts from the ancient Near East, Kathryn McConaughy amuses herself by writing fairy tales set in the ancient Near East (as well as Arthurian fantasies, Jane Austen retellings, and other tales too numerous and peculiar to mention). She lives in hope of one day finding a dissertation topic that won't immediately metamorphose into an idea for a novel.

The Amber Lady

A prophecy at Gilberto's christening led to the dismissal of nearly all spinners in Tracana. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, he searches the jungle for the seeress who gave the prophecy, but finds someone else. Gilberto is mesmerized by every part of Aurora: her honeyed skin (much lighter than his chocolate coloring), her emerald sari (that matches her eyes), and the forbidden silk she's spinning. So entranced, will he recognize the prophesied threat?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Endres has been imagining stories forever, and been scribbling them down since her fifth grade teacher sent her to her first Young Author's Conference. Always a traveler, to places real and imagined, her many forays into the world of Ingrelan have generated three novels and many short stories, in various stages of completion. After joining ACFW in 2010, her first Journal of Ingrelan, The Prince's Ring, was just shy of the semi-finals in their 2011 Genesis contest. Currently she scribbles, types, and reads in a tiny hermit hole in Anchorage, but good luck stalking her. Between pet-sitting, inventories, and tutoring high schoolers in Math and Spanish, her schedule is quite random. The one constant in her life is her dependence on Yahweh and His provision.

Take a moment to visit her blog, Wandering Ingrelan. Also check out the Pinterest board for The Amber Lady.

Greek Mythology Ocean Thing (working title)

This story is set in Ancient  Greece--where, exactly, I don't yet know. In exchange for a daughter, King Stefanos promises a sea nymph his kingdom. But when a seeress predicts that his daughter--Eos--will die on her eighteenth birthday, he realizes he's been slighted by the nymph and must find a way to protect his daughter. The story takes place in the months leading up to Eos's eighteenth birthday--as she enjoys the island celebrations, takes part in secret swordfights, and meets a certain handsome prince . . . all while the day of reckoning draws near.


The man stood in the ocean.

Tall and cloaked, he was a black slash against the grey sky and roiling ocean. He lowered the cowl of his cloak, and wind surged at his bearded face and sun-darkened skin, driving cold fingers through his cropped hair. The water was up to his shins in the spot where he stood, with sand dragging at his bare feet as the waves receded and surged forth. Behind him, numerous black rocks stood, standing straight and jagged in the sand as if flung there by the hand of a god.

The man's lips moved in a soundless prayer, and he closed his eyes and breathed in the air, thick with the smell of brine. When he opened them, she stood before him.

The nymph's eyes were black, lightless. Her skin was pale as a slash of lightning, bone-bright; her mouth was a red gash like the belly of a fish cut open. She wore a dress that clung wetly to her skin, glittering like the scales of a fish, and her hair was dark and long and wild: a stormy night at sea.

"King Stefanos," she rasped. "You've come to me for a favor." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hi, I'm Julia! I was born in Toronto, Ontario, grew up in Raleigh, NC, and am now a freshman at the University of Toronto, studying English literature and creative writing. My first-ever novel was about a guide dog that lost its master in Central Park. My second-ever novel was about a dog who ran away from home because he was embarrassed to be the runt of the litter. Luckily, the trend of dog protagonists has not continued in my writing today. You can find me on Tumblr at Inkstained Fingertips, and Blogspot at Dragons Dancing in Starlit Skies. Check out the Pinterest board for this story.

Darkened Slumber

Something foul is brewing.

In a land fraught with samurai, ninja, and creatures both ferocious and sinister, deep within a mountain fortress lies a sword. Containing untold powers, its is kept secret. But someone has found it. He intends to wield it for his own twisted benefit, and his first order of business is to cast a certain princess into an eternal sleep. Two friends and true love may not be enough to cure her and to stop this malevolent foe. But if they cannot, the land will fall under the enemy's shadow . . . forever. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josiah has written several stories, including an entry for the Five Enchanted Roses contest. It is his goal to dabble in genres he's never tried for the Rooglewood contests. He recently was one of the ten nominees in a short story writing contest, which received nearly a thousand entries. He loves listening to soundtracks whilst doing his writing and has come up with playlists for a few of his stories.

The Ogre Wars

"Leave me be, Kadryn, and tell your father to do the same. I refuse to even consider marriage."
"Who said anything about marriage?"
Callysta forced her feet to move. "No one had to."


Kadryn surveyed the carnage of the battlefield. Nothing could prepare him for the gruesome scene, though it was a familiar sight what with the war against he Ogres already three months in. More men than he dared to count lay in the bloodstained grass, either dead or soon to be. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jess lives in a rural area in a small town in Minnesota, where she'll sooner see a deer than another person. She loves to read and write and is currently attending Hamline University in pursuit of a degree in Creative Writing. She hopes to use this degree to pursuie a job as an author and/or editor.

A Spindle in Time

All the other princesses of her family had gone through this. Why was she the weak one, the scared one? But no one needed to know. This was right. She'd done enough crying. There was nothing to be done but to accept the facts. That was the only thing she had left to do . . . and she just couldn't manage to do it. 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Abby Cashen is an avid fan of various forms of media and hopes to one day be able to produce films as well as stories while traveling the globe.

Erin Cashen is an imaginative introvert, who has mastered cooking to an unbelievable degree and enjoys riding her horse.

Visit their blog at Sutori no Hana.


The Department of Happily Ever After

Lilac Figgalapola has a tough job, and now she has a Happily Ever After to organize. She has a prince with poor timing, an evil fairy who's being obnoxiously cheerful, an interfering rival department, and a curse gone wrong. If she fails this one, it will be an unhappy ending for the Department of Happily Ever After . . .

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jemma Tainsh is a home-schooled Australian teenager. She loves to read many different genres, write, and other creative exploits. Her writing is influenced by great authors such as Tolkien, Pratchett, and A.E. Stengl. You can visit her blog, The Sherwood Storyteller, and the Pinterest board for her story in progress.


Red and White

Two women--one curse that will forever shape the future.

Ewrethia, a royal mortal princess blessed with beauty and charm; Ishelle, the abused Faerie daughter of the dreaded Death Lord. Together these two form an unlikely friendship that endures until a fateful event tears them apart and pits Faerie against Mortal, love against hate, and brings about a battle that will ultimately determine the future of a child who holds all in the balance.


The dark halls are silent. Dust marks the ebony floor, thick and gritty, clinging to the smashed remains of furnishings blackened with age. Under a partially collapsed table a small girl sits, slightly hunched over, two eyes gleaming as they watch the single window framed by tattered drapes swaying lightly in the faint breeze. They snap open abruptly as a powerful gust surges through, exposing the darkened sky outside, and the girl shudders. A thunderous clap echoes, the sound vibrating through the floor, up the girl's body, before a rider emerges into view, darkness and fire trailing behind him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: J.M. is a devout fan of Christian fantasy and passionate about writing. Between creating new stories, he finds time for dabbling in graphic design, photography, computers, and collecting more books to add to his ever growing library. To interact with readers and new fans, he runs a blog called Heart of Light.


The Princess's Curse

With the land of Athada under the worst drought of centuries, the Mist Spinners banished, and her sixteenth birthday approaching, Anatola wonders if life can get much worse. Apparently it can, as she suddenly discovers a curse and a prophecy woven through her life. And only the ultimate sacrifice can break the one and fulfill the other.


My throat tightens, and I choke back a sob. Though the bluish white stone of the castle tower surrounds me, mist curls about my sandals and loose dress, beckoning me toward the silver spindle glimmering in the center of the chamber.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Hope Schmidt is 21, a Christian, the oldest of nine children, and a passionate authoress. She loves reading, writing, and fantasy . . . and is currently working on a futuristic trilogy. You can follow her blog, Writing the Light.


A Flame Shall Spring from the Embers

Love, loyalty, and revenge. A long-awaited princess lies in a death-sleep, and, in a land of ancient stone and green running hills, two houses are locked in mortal combat. The given words have promised a great king, but--even if the king should appear--how can there be any covering for the blood of the slain?


King Llwellyn sat weak and thin on his hard throne, his right arm--bony yet sinewed--resting uncomfortably against the smooth polished, wide grained wood. Slowly clenching and unclenching his hand, he ran it over his face and short cropped beard. Brushing his fingers across his eyes, he dropped his hand and raised his head. "Rhiannon."

His sister turned from the window, the green of her gown shimmering before it fell black in the shadows. Her strange eyes--slanted and dark--were startling beneath her mass of gold hair, bound in place with its thin twining circlet of paler gold.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Heidi Peterson (author of Ellen and Tales for Little Ears) is currently working on her third book and second full length novel. She's a lover of wide-spreading land, summer dust, white pounding waterfalls, and mountain tops; also of good dark coffee and rich stories. Most of all, she's a lover of the One who is the Word, the Word made flesh. She blogs at Along the Brandywine and Sharing the Journey. You can visit the Pinterest board for A Flame Shall Spring from the Embers.


The Dreams of Spring

Winter has outlived her time in the fey world, but Spring has never woken to bring her gentle thaw. For the mortal kingdom of Melstarr, spring has lasted far too long. When the lonely princess discovers a golden thread leading through the castle, could it be the path to a home she has never known?


A baby's birth should be remembered with great gladness. But the kingdom of Melstarr generally agreed that the weather had turned most sour since about the time Princess Avia had come into the world some fifteen years ago. Before then, the land had been famed for its hot, clear-sky summers and snowy cold winters. Since then, the sky threatened rain more often than not and humidity had risen to an alarming degree.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hannah Williams is an aspiring author and artist, seeking out stories of beauty and quality to inspire her own life and tales. She hopes to bring glory to God through her writing and artwork. You can follow her writing journey and read more of her reviews at her blog, The Writer's Window.



She was supposed to sleep for a hundred years, but nine centuries have passed since the curse was cast. Everything she knew is gone. A tenebrous fairy has risen to rule the kingdom in fear, and no one remembers a time before his reign of terror. For years, a secret resistance--led by an enigmatic old man--has been waiting for the brier rose of legend to awaken and restore peace to the kingdom. But what if she doesn't want to be a part of their plan?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  I have been writing stories since I was a little girl, mostly for my own amusement. A love of fairy tales has always resided within me. I am an artist who loves creating beauty in many forms. History has always been a passion of mine. I am recently married and live in Michigan with my husband and our little black cat.


Beneath the Spindle

Katrina Linden lives in a small town in Germany during WWII. She's the most innocent girl in all of Germany, for her overbearing brother won't enlighten her on the reality of war. They run a store together where Katrina spins wool on her late mother's spindle and visits with her brother's friends, who frequent the shop. Katrina gets entangled in the war in a way she never expected--right beneath her spindle.


Dearest Marlene,

I can imagine you standing on the porch of your seaside house right now, the paint peeling off in layers from the salty wind, and grains of sand permeating your hair. I can hear the white capped waves sloshing against each other, and I can smell the damp sand saturating the air.

You are in a different world than me, my sweet granddaughter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emily Ann Putzke is a young novelist, historical reenactor, and history lover. Her first novella, It Took a War, was independently published in December of 2014. She's the co-author of Ain't We Got Fun, which released in May of 2015. You can learn more about Emily and her books at Taking Dictation. You can also see the Pinterest board for Beneath the Spindle.


The Gift of Sleep

Adela was always grasping at straws, struggling to be seen through her younger sister Aurora's blinding radiance. But is it possible to be seen through another's beauty when you're too tall, too ugly, and scarred? Even if she could snag a suitor, since she was not the air to the throne she knew anyone who would be willing to marry her wouldn't be worth having. When a faerie Queen gives Adela a potion that will either find her love or destroy her, Adela knows it has to be fate; this is how she'll find her prince, her happy ending! But what will happen when her prince chooses the wrong princess?


One hundred years had finally passed. Even for an immortal, those years had gone slowly. Of course, they always seemed to go slow when waiting, but a human soul was worth the wait. A small smile graced the lips of the faerie as she walked through the silent, overgrown streets. It might have been a beautiful smile if not for the maliciousness behind it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alaina Hornberger is a sophomore in college working busily on creating her future, which she hopes includes books, art, and a great deal of travel. She has written several stories, including one Ancient Roman adventure/romance and a modern Japanese murder mystery, though her true love is fantasy. When she isn't exercising her brain during Greek class or flexing her fledgling writing skills, she is morphing into a zombie behind a video game or standing in front of a mirror and pretending she can dance while her cat silently judges her.



Who could have guessed that bonds of blood would someday turn to ties of hatred . . .

Long ago, two Faerie sisters went their separate ways. One became Queen Silverswan, beloved wife of the human king of Callenvar. The other become Lady Night of the Abyss, the most dreaded sorceress in all the realms. And now the Night-mage is ready to exact her revenge on her hated sister by cursing the newborn son she holds dear . . . and only a sacrifice of true love can save him. 


It was a fateful night in early spring when a long-held dream was both satisfied and stolen in the same moment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: My name is Catilin Eha, and I've been writing from the time I could form words on a page. Reading and writing have always been my major passions, which is why I'm currently attending college to acquire a degree in Creative Writing. I am currently unpublished; however, I have a number of novels and other projects in the works, so hopefully it won't be long. As I enter the Five Magic Spindles contest, I feel a tad like the ugly duckling, since I'm sure there are more experienced writers entering along with me. But I suppose that's the beauty of open submission. My hope is that my Magic Spindles story, whether it is published or not, will be an enjoyable read and show the wonder and power of the true love that comes from our God and Source.


Beneath the Dragon Skies

When her sister falls under the Phoenix's deathly spell, Alethea is forced out of her sheltered existence in the Adamaris Mountain. As their homeland becomes embroiled in shadowy clan politics, and a famine threatens their livelihood, she seeks out a means of undoing the curse. But can the Phoenix be bargained with? And can she trust her sister's charismatic suitor, her sole ally and the son of the rival clan's chief?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dana Li is a graduate student in management science and engineering. Despite pursuing a career in technology, she has always been a lover of stories, reading and writing voraciously in her spare time. She loves good fantasy/sci-fi, classy cuisines, and roller coasters (but not all at once). You can visit her blog, Pen and Fire, and also see the Pinterest board for Beneath the Dragon Skies.


The Lost City of Llira

Keturan has wandered the islands for years, his home long lost. Until one day, he meets a mysterious woman, who offers him a mission--to find the lost city of Llira, which disappeared under strange circumstances a hundred years ago.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I'm a college student who enjoys writing fantasy, and I was interested in this particular retelling. The part of Sleeping Beauty that fascinates me the most is the hero's adventure, the idea of everyone in the castle/city being asleep, and said sleep lasting a hundred years. I also really like island settings (like A Wizard of Earthsea or the Mistmantle books), and it seemed like a good place to have one.

I enjoy reading, sewing, and spinning (though NOT on a spindle).


Briars and Thorns

With her positive outlook, Aurora sees the future beyond her sleep as an adventure and a blessing. Little does she know that the future is far more dangerous than she could have dreamed . . . It will take all her love and faith to combat the briars and thorns fighting against her.

Chasing Sky does not think he will ever fall in love. So few people understand him, what with his Plains heritage. He does not expect to fall in love with a girl sequestered in a castle deep in the woods . . . but he does know she must be kept a secret for as long as possible. For danger lurks in his castle in the sky . . . a danger that threatens not only his beloved, but also the entire kingdom.


The air reeked of rose oil. Julia paused on the threshold of the Voters' hall, fighting against the urge to wrinkle her nose. She wanted to appear dignified--she was the king's wife and had given birth to the future Kingmaker, after all. But more than the roses seemed rancid to her, and that was the fact they were having this vote at all. Her eyes scanned the room before her, landing on the broad from of Theoden, her brother's advisor and good friend. He met her gaze and offered a slight, friendly smile.

She nodded her head once, as the protocol of the Vote demanded. She could offer no more, and he knew better than to expect it. Besides, by the end of the Vote she would want to throttle him, and he knew that too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native of Canada, Rebeka Borshevsky has followed her wanderlust to England, Portugal, and around the United Kingdom and Ireland. Her next stop is Japan in her hope to teach English as a second language. She spends her time between a small town and the city of Hamilton, Ontario, where she's always planning her next adventure. She dreams and blogs at The Other World.


The Angel in the Garden

An ancient palace fallen into ruin. A "Prince" who wasn't looking for a princess. A girl who can't even remember her own name. Two women with over-sized iron fists. A 500 year-old curse. And a question no one seems able to give an honest answer to: Who is Rose?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Molly Maurer is a college student who dreams of becoming a best-selling author, while pursuing a degree that will (hopefully) lead to a career as a high school English teacher. She lives in the dreary state of Ohio with her mother, brother, a dog, 3 cats (none of whom respect her designated writing time) 3 gerbils, and a snake (who's not really that creepy). Visit her blog, A Bibliophile's View: Fitness, Food, and Faith.


With Hearts of Stone

Huntley is a prince who, to his father's utter astonishment, has absolutely no dreams of marrying a princess and taking control of a kingdom for his own.

Bella is a princess who, to no one's astonishment, has nothing  but dreams running through her head. She and her kingdom have been asleep for who-knows-how-many-years, after all.

Fed up with his father's expectations of him, Huntley flees his home and gets lured against his will into a dark forest filled with beings of stone. In that very same forest, shortly after Huntley enters, Bella awakens to find that the curse of an evil fairy from long ago has not been lifted upon her awakening as it was supposed to. When their paths cross, Huntley and Bella must work together to find the mastermind behind the forest of stone, while learning a lot about themselves and the power of family in the process.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hi, I'm Ana. I'm a Christian teen book blogger, and I love posting book reviews and discussions at my blog, Butterflies of the Imagination. When I'm not blogging or studying like crazy, I love to run long distances and get muddy in the process. You can find me devouring the pages of a book, furiously scribbling down stories, sewing my own clothes, and coding up a storm. I believe that one can never consume enough peppermint and chocolate, and I'm always in the Christmas Spirit.


An Arranged Marriage

The king of Hanadil throws a ball to find a suitor for his beloved daughter, Ilona. But more is at stake than anyone realized. As long-held secrets come to light, the suitors are tested beyond expectations. And when the deepest secret of all threatens to plunge Ilona into eternal sleep, only one man can save her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Esther Brooksmith lives with her two dogs in a little field, flanked by acres of forest. And, when she has a plot problem to unwrinkle, she takes her dogs and roams the forestuntil her story is ready to flow smoothly again. In addition to weaving her tales, she keeps a blog, which you can find at The Pen of a Ready Writer.


The Hunter's Heir

After embarrassing herself in front of the Elven Kingdom during her sixteenth birthday celebration, Princess Meriel is afraid her clumsiness and lack of grace and elegance has given her royal family a bad name.

When she runs to Coral Brook Forest to be alone, she discovers her father's own advisor attempting to bring back a darkness that was destroyed hundreds of years ago.

And after she is struck by the darkness and wakes up one hundred years later, she finds that the Elven Kingdom is ruled by a selfish and cruel king, elves and humans are no longer friends, and villages are being attacked at night by the same darkness that had caused Meriel to sleep for a century long.

With the help of a cocky archer and two eccentric fairies, Princess Meriel journeys to find the elf and heir of the great Hunter, Lianothorn, who once destroyed the darkness years ago. As Meriel encounters dangers she never expected to face, she discovers that courage and loyalty are far more important qualities to have than simply being beautiful and charming.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allissa Zimmerman has been making up stories ever since she was a little girl. The story telling eventually turned into writing for fun. And writing for fun turned into a dream and passion she continues to pursue each day. As an aspiring author, Allissa is working on the rewrite of her first novel, Moments in Time, as well as other creative writing projects including, The Hunter's Heir. She also is a freelance copywriter for Christian organizations and companies. Allissa lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her family and adorable silky terrier, Gigi. You can visist her blog, Allissa's Little Corner.


 And there you have it, dear readers! More than thirty fantastic retellings of Sleeping Beauty in the works . . . and these are only a sampling of all the stories being created by talented writers across the globe.

So what do you think? Any that particularly stand out to you? I think my ABSOLUTE favorite title of the mix is "Beneath the Dragon Skies," (which should come as a shock to absolutely no one), though "The Ogre Wars" and "The Department of Happily Ever After" are right up there. My favorite opening lines might be Kathryn McConaughy's for "Guardian of Our Beauty," but there were so many fantastic openings, it's hard to choose just one.

 My favorite premise, well, that's even harder. Skye Hoffert's story, "Kiss My Eyes," about the girl who is preparing to undergo surgery for a tumor . . . definitely an intriguing premise. Esther Brooksmith's Dystopian "SPINDLE," with the tortured sleeping beauties, is one I want to pick up right now to see what happens. I love the notion of a princess as resistant to her gifts as she is to her curse, like in Tracey Dyck's, "The Brightest Thread."

And then there's all those fascinating settings. An Old West setting, a WWII setting, a samurai story . . . an islander story, a jungle story, and a castle in the sky . . . and that's not even beginning to touch on all of the wonderful, classic fairy tale kingdom settings, which, as you well know, will always draw my eye.

There's an evil butler and a Death Lord, a spooky water nymph and an awakened mummy. There are elves, fairies, angels, ogres . . . not to mention all of the wonderful incarnations of the lovely Sleeping Beauty herself.

Seriously, as I scroll back over these story summaries, each one jumps out at me in some way, tempting me with adventure, drama, and romance. I can tell that these authors have really brought their A-games to this contest, and I know I'm going to have a dragon-eaten time trying to pick just five winners this coming winter.

One thing I know for sure: This collection is going to be gorgeous!