With The Song of the Faerie Prince going on pre-order tomorrow (eek!), I thought I’d have some fun with this Throw Back and look at the book that started it all, Portraits of a Faerie Queen in its earliest incarnation.
It first started as a short story for a college class that–let’s be real–was never intended to be a short story. My professor saw what it was supposed to be a thousand miles away and even brought me into his office to tell me to write it as a novel.
Originally, Jocelyn was Joshua, and boy, was he angsty, haha. To be fair, it wasn’t just his mother he was trying to save. His whole family had died only days after making the deal with Mab that would save his sister from late stage cancer (yes, I know it’s basically Ghost Rider. It’s one of the things I changed), so he was wandering around pretty aimlessly.
Thankfully, it went though quite a few rewrites before it went to NineStar Press, but it’s still fun to look at in its earliest version, so here it is: The Ballad of Joshua Lennox
A pillow collides with my head, jolting me awake. I snatch at it vengefully.
Dominic hovers just out of my reach, his wings beating so quickly that they’re practically invisible. He’s posed with the pillow, ready for another attack. “Tithe, you’ll be late for work!”
The walls are as blank as a hospital room’s, but I’m in my own apartment, miles and years away from my sister. There’s no beeps of a heart monitor or the smell of sickness. There’s just my own breathing and the musky smell of summer.
Dominic frowns as he watches me get untangled from the knotted blankets. “You look terrible.”
“Nightmares,” I mutter, wiping the sweat from my face. My alarm clock reads 8:27 am.
Landing on the wooden floor, Dominic kneads the pillow with his long, twig-like fingers. “If you’re not feeling well—”
“Nic, I’m fine.” I force a smile. “If I drop dead during the day, I’ll leave a note telling the Queen it wasn’t your fault.”
Face scrunched, Dominic folds his arms around the pillow. “That’s not funny.”
I shrug, get to my feet, and hunt for a clean T-shirt. Seeing that I’m not in the mood for banter, Dominic sighs, throws the pillow at me, and shuts the door as he leaves.
He’s right to some extent. My death and its implications, accidental or otherwise, aren’t a joke. But I need to poke fun sometimes to keep sane.
Dressed and hair haphazardly brushed, I join Dominic in the small kitchen of the apartment. As I fill a thermos with hot water and instant coffee, he wraps four freshly toasted pop-tarts in a paper towel and slides them across the table.
“Two of those are for your boss as an apology for being late,” he says. Under his breath he adds, “How he’s lived over two-hundred years surviving on human food is beyond me.”
“Hey, leave human food alone. We can’t all have delicate faerie stomachs.” I tuck the pop-tarts into my messenger bag and grab my keys.
“You all might live longer if you did.”
“I don’t need to live very long, remember?”
I shut the door behind me mid-complaint and hop down the wooden stairs two at a time, grateful that the summer heat hasn’t set in yet. The old blue Cadillac I inherited from Dad sits in the early sun. It, like the rest of the world, is covered in a film of dew that gives the air a fresh clean smell. I breathe deep.
Other than the faint tobacco smell, the car’s interior is perfect. I’m not particularly religious, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’d curse me from beyond the grave if I so much as left a gum wrapper laying around. Dad loved our family more than anything, but the car was a close enough second place that I don’t doubt he’d find some supernatural way to get back at me if I don’t take care of it.
Thanks to a lack of traffic and a lack of cops, I make it downtown in record time and walk into The Novel Spell at 8:59. The musty smell of old books and dust greets me, as do the pixies that call the store home, who flit around me as small darts of earthy color, squeaking and chirping.
“Morning, all,” I greet, holding up my hand. They snuggle against my palm before going off to find trouble.
“You’re late, Tithe,” my crotchety hobgoblin of a boss croaks. He waddles towards me, scowling with dark beady eyes. The smell of freshly turned dirt follows him. A bit shakes itself loose as he raps his cane against my shin.
Wincing, I say, “Sorry, but I brought you something.”
His eye widen at the sight of the two remaining pop-tarts and he snatches them out of my hand, mumbling, “You’re forgiven,” around a mouthful of crust, frosting and strawberry jelly.
Usually while I prop open the door and raise the shades, my boss scurries to the back room to take care of whatever hobgoblin-business he has to do. Today, however, he shifts from foot to foot once he finishes eating until I take my post behind the counter. Even after I set out the displays of locally crafted souvenirs he’s still hanging around.
“Something wrong?” I ask, taking a sketchbook from my bag. “Do you want me to stock something?”
“Not yet,” the hobgoblin says, scratching one long, ragged ear. “I was wondering…if you know anyone needing work.”
“Have a friend looking for help?”
“You can’t fire me for being late once,” I tease.
“I’m not. I need you to train a new clerk.” The hobgoblin’s eyes soften a little.
“So you’re not firing me now.”
The hobgoblin turns away. “You’ve got three months left, Tithe.” The words sprawl out of his mouth like he’s trying to throw them away. “I need a replacement to start sooner rather than later…Thought you might know someone.”
I look at the date on the register. July thirty-first. Sure enough, the tithing ceremony is exactly three months away.
The air in the store freezes. Even the pixies are still.
Taking a gulp of coffee, I open the sketchbook, “You’re right. I’ll be on the look-out,” I say.
There’s no point in getting angry; I chose this fate.
The hobgoblin takes a breath as if to say something, but just sighs, shakes his head and disappears into the back room. One of the pixies perches on my shoulder and nuzzles my earlobe. Usually I would scold him, warning him of human customers, but I let him stay.
I don’t want to be alone right now.
Sixteen-year-old Gia Johnson is comfortable in the background, but when dark magic looms over her town, her beautiful voice will put her in a spotlight she never imagined: the Seelie Court. To get out alive and save her childhood friend, she’ll have to trust Oliver O’Brian, a trans classmate and a Prince of Faerie, especially when an ancient evil rears its ugly head from the depths of Lake Michigan. All the while, Gia finds herself drawn to Oliver, but what does that mean if she’s always liked girls?