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  • Kristina Elyse Butke

#FantasyIndiesSpooktober


Black and white photo of screaming skeleton with forest background - #FantasyIndiesSpooktober
Photo by Sabina Music Rich on Unsplash

Every month I've seen fun prompts on Twitter labeled #FantasyIndies. And while I'm currently querying agents to go traditional, I haven't ruled out self-pub completely yet (it's all about the finances). I've always wanted to participate in these monthly prompts, whether or not my book is indie. Of course, they're designed for Twitter, but I'm a blogger, so I thought I'd give these a go since we're in the fun, spooky season!


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1 - Introduce yourself & WIP

If you're here, you know that I'm Kristina, a writer of fantasy. I used to be a playwright and composer but switched to writing fiction in 2010 when I enrolled in Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction program. I got my MFA in 2013 and wrote my first book while I was there.


Speaking of, that's my WIP right now. For years I've wanted to rewrite my thesis, The Name and the Key, However, I couldn't quite figure out how to fix the problems with it, so I kept putting it off. But a week or so ago, I sat down and rewrote fifteen pages of the beginning, completely from scratch. While I'm using my thesis to guide me, I'm going to be changing a lot, so I'll be writing most of it as if it were a brand-new project.


Here's the description of the book so far (subject to change!):

When Lily Bellamy discovers her mother's body in the marshes, she enables a horrific curse that follows her through mirror and glass. Six years later, Lily reunites with her childhood friend, Andresh Zatavier, a powerful magician in his own right. He may hold the key to breaking the curse, but his own secrets may destroy them both.

I think it needs work, because there are some things about the curse that need changing, and I haven't quite figured it out yet.


2- WIP Moodboard


Collage of multicolored fire, ink in water, woman in water, statue of angel, and wall with mirrors
Moodboard Images sourced from Unsplash

3 - Morally gray characters in your WIP

I would say Andresh is a person who is the closest to being morally gray in the book. Overall he is a good person, but he has done dubious things to reach his goals, and some of those things have hurt other people (or will hurt them).


4 - MC Fears

My MC, Lily, cannot bear to look at her reflection for more than a few seconds, or else she begins to see things in the mirror. But it's not just mirrors--it's any reflective surface, or glass, or still water. The visions she sees terrifies her.


She also has an aversion to bad smells after she discovered her mother in the marshes, and that has manifested in her washing her hands and bathing frequently, using perfumes, and making scented soaps and candles in her father's store.


5 - Write a horror flash fiction


No thanks. Can't think of anything.


6 - Monsters in WIP

There are two major monsters in the novel. One of them is a spirit that appears to Lily in the form of her mother, and the other is The Guardian, a being who keeps watch over the Black Gate in a place of death. I may have a third monster--I know who it is, but I haven't decided if she's going to make an appearance in this book or not. She definitely will in the prequel, The Step and the Walk.


7 - Free Friday

I guess I can use this to talk about anything related to the book? One of the things I'm trying to play around with is this fictional theater troupe called The St. Calico Players. I don't know if they're going to make an appearance in The Name and the Key or The Step and the Walk yet, but Andresh is an actor with the troupe. He almost always gets cast as the romantic lead or princely characters.


8 - Saturday snippet

Here's the thing. I used to share my writing online but there's quite a bit of content theft out there, and a lot of it from social media. I don't want to mess with any of that, and I'm a bit paranoid, so I'm not posting excerpts of anything until the copyright has been registered in the Library of Congress or the book is formally published and I'll be sharing excerpts of it to promote it then. Basically, until the book is out there in some sort of official capacity, you're not going to see it.


9 - Superstitions in WIP

Lily is not only afraid of mirrors but she is also superstitious about them, including the idea of breaking a mirror leading to seven years of bad luck. Andresh is superstitious about dead people ever since he visited his ancestral home to bury his grandfather, and his family there introduced some of their beliefs to him.


10 - Poisons & Potions in WIP

My world is inspired by the early 1800s, particularly the Regency period, so while there are no potions or poisons in the book, I have had fun concocting the names of medicines and beauty products, soaps, and shampoos. For example, because Lily can't be near still water that has a reflection, she takes her baths with tons of soapy water, and she uses Lady Ashton's Foaming Elixir to make sure she has plenty of bubbles to hide her reflection in the water.


11 - WIP Aesthetic

I'm not sure how this is different from a moodboard. So I guess I'm making a second one?

This one is a bit more disjointed, but I promise each picture is relevant to something in the book.

Collage of marshes, man in front of fire, closeup of lace, bust of statue, calico cat, statues of people in hell, a mirror, a ship on the sea in sunset, and a woman floating in the water
Aesthetic images sourced from Unsplash

12 - How would your MC celebrate Halloween?

Lily would prefer to stay away from the death imagery, but she would certainly indulge herself in wearing costumes and masks.


13 - What treats does your MC like?

Lily likes eating rout cakes during the events of the Season.


14 - Free Friday

Hmm...another thing to talk about with the book...you're probably wondering why I settled on a Regency-inspired era for my fantasy. Well...I based it entirely on the fashions, particularly men's fashions of the time. I just really like how the men dressed back then!


I like some of the Regency gowns women wore, but I was never a fan of womens' Regency hairstyles, particularly the tight curls worn around the face. Lily's sister Lainey wants to be perceived as fashionable, and she has naturally curly hair, so she has no problem following the trends. Lily hates them, though, so she wears her hair long all the time, in full violation of the Regency style.


15 - Saturday Snippet

Heyo! See #8!


16 - What haunts your MC?

The death of Lily's mother--in particular, her corpse--haunts Lily.


17 - How would your MC react to trick or treaters?

She'd be happy to give them candy, and maybe a business card for her soaps and candles!


18 - Favorite horror book/movie

My favorite books are Stephen King's The Shining and Douglas Clegg's Neverland. My favorite horror movies are the 1989 Pet Semetary (that shaped my childhood and scared the crap out of me) and probably 2002's The Ring. I saw that in the theater and it was an experience!


19 - Are there spooky tales in your WIP lore?

As spooky as my book is, I don't really share any stories in the book. In the first drafts of the book, I wanted it to be more like a fairy tale, so there were parts where there was storytelling around the table and the campfire, but that ended up slowing the book down by not really moving the plot along, so those got cut. I don't think I'm going to add anything like that as I rewrite the book.


20 - Does your MC believe in ghosts?

Based on the stuff she's seen and heard, Lily totally believes in ghosts.


21 - Free Friday

Hmm...another thing about the book...well, I can tell you it was incredibly hard to write the first go-around. I rewrote the beginning what felt like a billion times, and I wasted most of my time with critique partners and mentors redoing the first three chapters, not really advancing along that much. After wasting so much valuable time, I didn't have a chance to get eyes on the rest of the manuscript...I think about half of it I just poured out of my mind at the last minute because the thesis was due. So, essentially I turned in a first draft as my thesis, and sometimes I'm bewildered it passed. The pacing in the end is really fast, and it kind of comes across as an "oh crap my thesis is due HURRY HURRY HURRY!"


22 - Saturday Snippet

Once again, see #8!


23 - Would your MC explore a haunted house?

Lily would probably cover all of the mirrors first, but even then, she'd be reluctant to go inside.


24 - Spooky shelfie/selfie

Most of my books are in the basement but I have a lot of writing research books upstairs in my bedroom. I picked the spookiest-looking research book I had in my room: David Pickering's Cassell Dictionary of Superstitions.

Closeup of Cassell Dictoinary of Superstitions book in front of a bookcase filled with books

25 - Show us your antagonist

There are two--the spirit that follows Lily in her reflections, and then The Guardian, which haunts Andresh. May or may not be a third...but the main one is Lily's ghost.


26 - Tricks in WIP

Andresh tricks an annoying customer into buying lesser quality fabric at a higher price because he's just so charming! But as for a cooler trick--he and Lily perform the Fire Dance.


27 - Happy endings or tragic endings?

Well, when this book was written, it was originally a happy ending. But now that I want to make this a trilogy, I'm ending the first book on a tragic note and a cliffhanger. That may piss people off, but oh well!


28 - Free Friday

The Name and the Key probably qualifies as my longest WIP even though I took a break from it for years. I started it in 2010...it's 2022...so that means it's 12 years old so far. I'm not sure how long it's going to take me to rewrite it...hopefully not as long as Son of the Siren took!


29 - Saturday Snippet

Once again, I'm protecting my baby by not sharing it until it's an official book.


30 - What would your MC wear as a costume?

She'd probably dress up in a sparkly white satin Regency gown with an elaborate unicorn mask.


31 - Happy Halloween!

Definitely! This is my favorite holiday!


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If you want to play along, here's the original prompt image used on Twitter. The hosts of this Twitter event are @LydiaVRussell and @ChesneyInfalt. You can play on Twitter or blog it up on your own website! Enjoy!




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