Characters and the Party Dynamic: and Interview with Eliah Menchaca

November 2021

Welcome to my fourth Book Nook! Today I rolled a Nat 20 and had the honor of talking to Elijah Menchaca, author of They Met in a Tavern, an exciting whirlwind adventure about a party of “we used to be” heroes. We chat about writing different characters and how to create a functioning and believable party out of different personalities and architypes (even when they don’t like each other).

So boil the kettle, get out your d20s, and enjoy!

Check out Elijah’s website: https://elijahmenchaca.com/
Follow him on instagram: @phoenixagent003
Twitter: @PhoenixAgent003

They Met in a Tavern

They used to be heroes . . . and it was all downhill from there.

The Starbreakers were your classic teenage heroes. Using their combined powers and skills, they were the most successful group of glintchasers in Corsar. But that all changed the day the city of Relgen died. The group went their separate ways, placing the blame on each other.  

Seven years after their falling out, a hefty bounty is placed on their heads. Phoenix tries to reunite the Starbreakers before everything they have left is taken from them.  But a lot can change in seven years. And if mending old wounds was easy, they would have done it a long time ago.

Pick up a copy of They Met in a Tavern: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/T/They-Met-in-a-Tavern

Contest of Queens News

Contest of Queens Teaser Trailer

I am so excited to finally share the Book Trailer for Contest of Queens! A huge huge thank you to Bryan Johnston, a fellow CamCat author, who was the mastermind behind this stunning trailer! (I’ve honestly lost count of how many times I’ve watched it). And a huge thank you to all my dear friends who joined me for an in-person release- it wouldn’t have been the same without your oooooos and aaaaahhhhs (scroll across for some pictures from the night).

Visit Bryan Johnson’s website here: https://www.bryanrjohnston.com/ and check out his novel, Deep into the Woods.

Blog Feature

Rant and Rave Review

I was recently featured in Dana Flanders’ blog “Rant and Rave” and she had some lovely things to say about Contest of Queens!

One of my favourite comments she made was:

My favorite part about this book was that Jacs had her priorities straight. As someone who reads quite a bit of young adult books, it is soooo refreshing to see a strong female lead who prioritizes her family, her friends, and her mission above the romantic interest.

Dana Flanders

I know this feeling will only get stronger as more people read and review my novel, but I just love to hear what each person gets from it. My hope is that it has a little nugget for everyone 🙂

Book Tour Feature

Thank you TBR and Beyond Book tours for featuring Contest of Queens!
Click the picture for more information

If you’re like me, you love a good sale

Black Friday Sale at CamCat!

My publisher, CamCat Books, have an incredible sale on from November 25th until December 1st. 20% off any order on their site. This means you can get any of the wonderful titles already released (including novels featured in past Book Nook interviews):

Or upcoming novels available for pre-order!

And look at that gorgeous title four from the left (not that I’m biased…).
We only have 2 months until Contest of Queens is released and I am so so excited to share it with you all! To preorder your copy, follow the link below:

https://camcatbooks.com/Books/C/Contest-of-Queens

Live Magically x


Contest of Queens visits France

October 2021

Oh nelly, October was a whirlwind of a month. I had a few very exciting things happen that I can’t wait to share with you all! In this month’s newsletter, check out:

  1. The Queens take on France (and I turned 30, flirty and thriving)
  2. The Genre LA Creative Writing Conference
  3. September/October’s hype train draw

The Queens take on France (and I turned 30!)

In two weeks, Katie and I went coast to coast and everywhere in between in France. I could fill books (and I did) about our adventures, but that is for another time. So instead, enjoy the pre-published French book tour we took with Contest of Queens!

The Genre LA Creative Writing Conference

Let me tell you, it is a surreal feeling to see your name and photo next to all of these incredibly talented writers/authors/publishers!

I was lucky enough to speak on three different panels across the week, I’ve included their summaries below.


On the Speculative Fiction Panel (description below), I joined my fellow CamCat authors to talk about the “What If” factor as well as debate the value of escapism and story outlines, with Dungeons and Dragons popping up for an honorable mention. I was armed with a cup of tea, and if it weren’t for the screen, could have mistaken the panel for a chat with old friends.

Thanks to Josh Chamberlain for moderating, and to my fellow panelists:
Elijah Menchaca- They Met in a Tavern
Bryan Prosek- The Brighter the Stars, Measure of Serenity
Christian Klaver- Shadows over London series
Jason Offutt- The Girl in the Corn

To find out more about any of these authors, please visit their websites or even better, find their books at https://camcatbooks.com/

September/October Draw

Last but not least, congratulations to Hayley (@these_damn_fools on Instagram) for winning this months’ hype train draw! She will be getting a Contest of Queens goodie bag sent to her 🙂

If anyone would like information on how to get on the hype train and how to enter to win cool swag, please jump over to my contact page and send me a message!

x live magically

Steampunk and Narrative Voice: an Interview with Elizabeth Chatsworth

September 2021

Welcome to my third Book Nook! Today I had the absolute pleasure of talking to Elizabeth Chatsworth, author of The Brass Queen, an incredible steam-punk fantasy with the best dialogue and metaphors I’ve read in a while. One of my favourite lines being: I do so love a story well told, and if you agree with that sentiment, you will love this book!

So boil the kettle and settle in for this interview where Chatsworth and I discuss narrative voice and all things steampunk.

Live most magically x

The Brass Queen

She knows a liar when she sees one. He knows a fraud when he meets one.

In a steam-powered world, Miss Constance Haltwhistle is the last in a line of blue-blooded rogues. Selling firearms under her alias, the “Brass Queen,” she has kept her baronial estate’s coffers full. But when US spy J. F. Trusdale saves her from assassins, she’s pulled into a search for a scientist with an invisibility serum. As royal foes create an invisible army to start a global war, Constance and Trusdale must learn to trust each other. If they don’t, the world as they know it will disappear before their eyes.

If you like the Parasol Protectorate or the Invisible Library series, you’ll love this gaslamp fantasy—a rambunctious romantic romp that will have you both laughing out loud and wishing you owned all of Miss Haltwhistle’s armaments.

For more information about Elizabeth Chatsworth, check out her website: https://elizabethchatsworth.com/

SNEAK PEEK ALERT!

Can’t wait for January? Neither can I! And luckily for us, neither could CamCat. They have now uploaded the first two chapters of Contest of Queens to their website for you to peruse to your heart’s content!
That’s the first 50 pages!
Click the black “LOOK INSIDE” button for a preview. Don’t forget to check out the map while you’re there! Can you find Jacs’ farm?

https://camcatbooks.com/Books/C/Contest-of-Queens

Don’t forget to preorder your copy and add it to Good Reads!

August Hype Train Draw Winner

Every month, the people who have contributed to hyping Contest of Queens up will go in the draw to win some goodies.

This month’s draw was for a Contest of Queens swag bag! *cue trumpets* including: a message in a bottle, a book bag, two postcards, a fridge magnet, a bookmark, and an autographed book sticker.

Congratulations Dylan (@dylankewball on Instagram) for being this month’s winner of the hype train draw! Thank you so much for all you did this month to share the Contest of Queens love!

For more information about the hype train, or if you would like to join, please jump over the the contact page and send me an email 🙂

Contest of Queens Giveaway Winner

This month I also had an Instagram contest to celebrate the cover reveal for Contest of Queens. Congratulations to Ally (@nuggets_allison) for winning all these goodies!

The prize was a Contest of Queens swag bag, and a signed copy of The Rose Petal Princess and other fairytales!

Thank you so much to all who entered 🙂

I will be hosting Instagram giveaways in the months leading up to the release of Contest of Queens. Make sure to follow me on Instagram: @jordanhbartlett for information about the next one!

Live magically x

Contest of Queens Cover Reveal

August 2021.

Hello, dear Readers!

August has been a wild and wonderful month, namely because I was able to reveal the cover of my upcoming novel, Contest of Queens! It was such a magical and humbling experience, and it just kept on going!

The day was spent out at Two Jack Lake with a group of wonderful humans who all took time out of their Saturdays to come celebrate. We had champagne and nibbles, and laughed in the face of the orange smoke that turned all our photographs sepia tone. Billie Marlow captured the day perfectly (check out her photography on instagram: @marlowb).

On top of the in person magic, the cover was also released online through The Nerd Daily, and the story was covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook (keep scrolling to see what they had to say). I know this journey is truly just beginning, but I honestly cannot believe how lucky I am to be on it! Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the release in person, thank you to everyone who is showing their support from afar, AND the pre-order link is up, so if you want to be the first to read Contest of Queens, please pre-order your copy now!

The Nerd Daily Reveal
Thank you to The Nerd Daily for hosting the online cover reveal on their website! You can check out the full article here: https://thenerddaily.com/contest-of-queens-by-jordan-h-bartlett-cover-reveal/

Rocky Mountain Outlook Feature
And thank you to the Rocky Mountain Outlook for the two-page spread in their August 26th issue. You can read the full article here: https://www.rmotoday.com/mountain-guide/banff-authors-fantasy-turned-into-reality-4251498

xx Live Magically,
Jordan

Magic and Magic Systems in Fairytales: an Interview with Brandie June

July 2021.

Welcome back for my second book nook! A space where I get to sit down and geek out with incredible authors about their books. Today I had the honor of chatting with Brandie June, debut author of Gold Spun (released earlier this year) about magic and magic systems in fairytale retellings. So boil the kettle, pour the tea, grab some bickies and settle in!

For more information:
Check our Brandie’s website: https://www.brandiejune.com
Follow her on instagram: @thebrandiejune
TikTok: @brandiebooks
Pick up a copy of Gold Spun here: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/G/Gold-Spun2

Live magically x

Gold Spun

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire. Desperate for help, Nor summons the faerie’s aid, launching a complicated dance as she must navigate between her growing feelings for both the prince and faerie boy and who she herself wishes to become

Brandie June can be found at www.brandiejune.com and follow her @brandiejune.

Mentor Figures in Young Adult Fiction: Guest Panelist at the ALA Annual Show

On June 24th, 2021 I was lucky enough to present at the CamCat panel at the ALA Annual Show. I joined Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion (jump over to my recent interview for more information: https://jordanhbartlett.com/2021/07/02/fairytales-retellings-and-ya-fantasy-an-interview-with-aamna-qureshi/), Bryan Prosek, author of A Measure of Serenity, and Christian Klaver, author of Shadows Over London.

So get a cup of tea ready, and settle in to watch these talented authors and I discuss the roles mentors play in our respective novels as well as in young adult fantasy as a genre. It was such a privilege to speak with these incredible humans, and a huge thank you to Josh Chamberman who was our moderator for this event!

Most of us have been lucky to find positive role models and mentor figures either in our lives, or in books, shows, and movies. Some of my favourite mentor figures in media include Uncle Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender and Bromm from Eragon. I’d love to hear about the mentors that have made a difference in your lives! Leave a comment, or pop me a message 🙂

Live magically x

Be sure to pop over to CamCat Books for more information about these authors and their upcoming (or released) novels. https://camcatbooks.com/

Fairytales, Retellings, and YA Fantasy: an interview with Aamna Qureshi

July 2021.

Welcome to my book nook! A place where I get to indulge my nerdy side and talk books with amazingly talented authors. Today’s guest is Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion which is coming out July 20th, 2021, and When a Brown Girl Flees which is coming out in 2023.

It was such an honor to speak with Aamna today, so I hope you all enjoy our discussion about fairytales, retellings and their place in YA fantasy (with a little romantic intrigue thrown in for good measure!)

Live magically x

Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up on Long Island, New York, in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity.

For more information, check out Aamna Qureshi’s website: https://www.aamnaqureshi.com/
Follow her on instagram: @aamna_qureshi or Twitter: @aamnaqureshi_

Welcome to the PW US Book Show

June 2021.

On May 27th, 2021 I was lucky enough to be one of the authors featured on CamCat Books’ panel Writing Debut YA at the PW US Book Show. It was such a surreal and wonderful experience chatting with these amazing women, learning more about their worlds, and how they wrote their inspiring female leads. If you have a cup of tea ready, watch the full thing below and enjoy the show!

Also, if you look really closely, you can see a sneak peak of my book cover for Contest of Queens!

For your second cup of tea, check out these two wonderful authors:

Aamna Qureshi can be found on IG @aamna_qureshi and Twitter @aamnaqureshi_, or on her website: https://www.aamnaqureshi.com/

The Lady or the Lion

He sunk his teeth into her heart and she let him.

As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. His family has three months to prove their innocence, or they will all have war.

As Durkhanai races to solve who really orchestrated the attack, ambassadors from the neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each with their own intentions for negotiations, each with their own plans for advantage. When a mysterious illness spreads through the villages and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must dig deep to become more than just a beloved princess—she must become a queen.

To distract Durkhanai from it all is Asfandyar Afridi, the wry ambassador who tells her outright he is a spy, yet acts as though he is her friend—or maybe even something more.

Gold Spun

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire. Desperate for help, Nor summons the faerie’s aid, launching a complicated dance as she must navigate between her growing feelings for both the prince and faerie boy and who she herself wishes to become.

Brandie June can be found at www.brandiejune.com and follow her @brandiejune.

Away

Something a little harsher. Mild violence warning. A short story about escapism.

This will likely be my last short story published here for a while. I have three incredible writing projects I’m so so excited about working on this year and between those and my day job- I don’t see myself having time for much more. But I hope you’ve enjoyed them. If you want more, please check out my short stories from previous months, and in the meantime, save a space on your bookshelf for my upcoming novel: Contest of Queens!

Image credit: https://www.deviantart.com/hibbary/art/caught-in-light-4024772

She closed her eyes.

A Griffin stood before her. The sleek feathered head, wings, and talons of an eagle merging seamlessly to the silky haunches and tail of a lion. It towered over her, head high. A Queen surveying her subject. The sunlight shone like gold on its fur, and shimmered across iridescent feathers. Its eyes held an ancient knowing of one who has understood their power for as long as a mountain has known its height. 

Without thinking, she sunk into a deep, reverential bow. Pain bloomed down her left side as she bent forward. Her breath caught, she squeezed her eyes tight shut, and focused on the creature before her. She watched the breeze playfully ruffle feather and fur, watched the creature’s long tail flick ever so slightly. Minute adjustments and shifted posture gave life to this creature of legend. With every breath, the goddess became mortal.

The Griffin inclined its head slightly and clicked its beak. Hesitantly, she approached. Each step soundless, weightless. She slowly bridged the distance between them; its great eye watching her all the while. She was now close enough to count the barbs along individual feather vanes. Each snowy white feather crowned in soot black. A loaded quill awaiting parchment. 

She raised a hand, the Griffin bowed its head, and she placed her palm against its cheek. Her nails were decidedly intact, her wrists purposefully unblemished. Tan on black on white. Eyes level, she saw the turn of the Earth within its iris, saw the depth of the night sky within its pupil. Gently, she stroked its cheek. The Griffin closed its eyes and made a contented sound deep in its throat. A dove’s coo harmonized with a kitten’s purr. She smiled, wincing only slightly as her lips pulled taut and cracked. 

Her eyes slid down its neck to rest on the space between its wing joints. Again, the Griffin beckoned, shifting its head. She tentatively traced her palm down the line her eyes had drawn. Then, her body unnaturally light, lifted herself upward and settled in between the wing joints. She could almost feel the warmth against her thigh and the feathers slipping between her fingers as she sought a handhold among the rachides. 

She inhaled. Warm notes of hay, chestnuts, and pine resin danced in her mind, fighting back the scent of mildew and gasoline. 

A sudden metallic crash rang in her ears and resonated within her skull, rattling her bones.The screech of something monstrous. She buried her face in the Griffin’s neck. Her eyes squeezed shut. Through the reverberation, she could hear the gentle cooing echo in the creature’s throat. The soft sound drowned out the dying crash. Heavy footsteps followed, but had no place where they were headed. 

Emboldened, she sat upright and applied the slightest pressure through her knees. As though awaiting this command, the Griffin tossed its majestic head, flicked its tail, and set off at a gallop. The approaching footsteps became the pounding of paw and talon. 

One,

Two,

Three great strides and the creature launched itself into the unknown.

The field slipped away from them as they rose higher towards the heavens. She was the fulcrum, and the world spun beneath her. All life now orbiting her place on the Griffin’s back. Air currents swirled around her, cooling her feverish brow. She stretched her arms to either side, embracing the light, and was almost able to ignore the dull ache spanning the length of her ribs.

She felt a bubble of laughter building in her chest. Light and playful it burst forth and danced around the clouded realm. The anticipated windswept laughter hit her ears with hollow dissonance. Losing its substance as it fell from her lips, the marrow sucked from a bone. A dry, rasping husk of joy. 

Still she looked higher. Clouds enveloped and released them. They soared above meadows of mist. Fluffy white mountains and milky valleys stretched away below; all edged in a golden glow. 

“Alright girly, get up,” a harsh voice scraped from coarse throat. Its notes flew at her. The words chased her as she spurred the Griffin forward. She glanced behind them, her breath caught in her throat as she glimpsed the sinuous shape emerging from the gathering clouds. Ruby eyes gleaming, scales glistening, it stalked her on the wind. 

She bent low over the Griffin’s neck and urged the creature onwards. Great wings beating on either side of her, matching and masking the sharp, swift flashes of pain blossoming within her like fireworks.     

The clouds darkened, billowing up to meet her. Shadows corrupted the valleys of light. A patch of sun remained high above her. She pleaded the Griffin higher. Arms outstretched, pain devoured her as she reached her fingers towards the sun. 

Then her wrists were wrenched behind her. Manacles materialized and she felt the hard back of a chair along her spine. Her last patch of light snuffed out. Shadows rose up to consume them as down, down they fell. Wings became paper thin and useless. Hands and talons grasped at nothing. The Griffin screamed. Eagle cry blended with lion roar. The crashing of thunder merged with howling winds. The scream exploded in the void, echoing through the darkness, struggling for purchase in the abyss, growing softer and weaker, until finally, dying in a girl’s whimper. 

Slowly, her eyes opened.

A man stood before her. She glared up at him through swollen eyelids. Breathing heavily through gritted teeth and cracked ribs, her vision swam. Blood smeared his knuckles. He dragged a forearm under his nose and spat near her foot. For a moment, she caught sight of the gleaming red eyes of a serpent. The inked beast twisted around his wrist. 

On the Belief of Fairies

A lighthearted story to start the year off the right way. This is about one of those moments in history that gives me the giggles every time I think about it, and I just hope I did it enough justice that it gives you the giggles too. So the timeline has been tweaked a little to make the story more condensed, and I took some artistic liberties, but the events are accurate. Two young girls did manage to fool Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, esteemed author of Sherlock Holmes, (as well as many many other people) with photographs of ‘real’ fairies. Like my other stories, this one pairs well with a cup of tea- may I suggest something floral? Chamomile, perhaps?

Cottingley, England. 1920

“The state you’re in!” Elsie’s mother’s voice crashed into the girls as they came into view, making them stop short at the parlor door. She rose from her seat at the window and strode towards them. Her stern posture somewhat ruined by the dimples flickering in her cheeks. 

Frances, Elsie’s younger cousin, looked down guiltily at their bare feet, grass and mud clinging to their soles, and winced at the inches of sopping hem above their ankles. 

“Where have you been? We have a visitor arriving soon.” Elsie’s mother cushioned the word visitor as though it were a precious vase. Elsie clutched her sketchbook tightly and glanced at Frances.

“We were visiting the fairies.” Frances said sweetly, exchanging a knowing look with Elsie and stifling a grin. The dimples in Elsie’s mother’s cheeks deepened and all hints of severity smoothed out with an indulgent smile.

Elsie’s father snapped his newspaper from where he sat on the settee. He did not look up, but Elsie could see the lines deepen on his forehead, and heard a distinctive short, sharp sniff.

“Did you see any today?” Elsie’s mother asked.

“Yeah, loads!” Frances replied, absently scratching one foot with the toes of the other.

Seeing an opportunity, Elsie added, “If father allowed us to use his camera again, we could have taken some more pictures to show you.” She sighed delicately, though loud enough to carry over her father’s paper barricade. He did not respond, but sat now too still for one supposedly reading.

“Never mind that,” her mother said with a wave. “Hurry and change into something dry, and put some shoes on. Elsie, help Frances fix her ribbon will you? And clean up that muck. You look like you’ve been living in the woods.”

Before the girls could obey, a crunching of gravel, the knocking on and creaking of the front door, and the purposeful footfalls of a man with an appointment made them scurry behind Elsie’s mother. There was a murmuring just beyond the parlor entranceway.

A servant appeared and announced, “Ma’am, the theosophist, Mr. Edward Garner is here.”

With a panicked and slightly exasperated look at Elsie, her mother removed a leaf from her daughter’s hair and said, “Send him in.”

The servant bowed, stepped aside, and gestured for their guest to enter.

The shine of his shoes entered first. The man followed. He wore a dark suit, white shirt, and an understated dark tie. His seams had been pressed, and his tailor- most likely- well paid for his diligence. His hair was white, and his salt and pepper goatee was trimmed neatly. He stood in the doorway with the air of a man used to speaking from podiums. Surveying the parlor, he caught sight of the nature-tumbled girls, opened his palms by his sides, and beamed.

“And this must be Miss Elsie and Frances Griffiths,” he said. The girls said nothing, they simply stared.

“The very same,” Elsie’s mother nodded and shot a look at Elsie that compelled her to step forward.

“I’m Elsie, sir, and this is my cousin, Frances.” 

Frances took a half step forward. Mr. Gardner beamed wider still and shook each of their hands in turn. He did not appear to notice their grubby nails and mud smeared palms.

“Marvelous!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been so looking forward to meeting the girls who discovered fairies!” He bounced slightly on the balls of his feet and wrung his hands excitedly.

Frances giggled, “Our fairies?”

“Yes indeed little Miss, you and your cousin have made a breakthrough of religious proportion. To think that you have done what many have tried and failed to do; captured fairies on film! And it’s not just me who wants to see them, I have been sent by my dear friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He entrusted me to determine whether these photographs are to be believed.” He inflated visibly at the mention of his friend and looked around expectantly.

The girls exchanged a glance. Elsie felt her cheeks flush and her stomach flutter. “Sir Arthu… you mean…” she began.

“The great author of Sherlock Holmes, naturally.” Mr. Gardner supplied, standing taller.

“He wants to see our fairies too?” Frances asked incredulously.

“That he does, that he does. He has even sent you each a camera to use as a thank you for documenting these elusive creatures.”

The two girls were speechless. Mr. Gardner appeared to take it as a sign of awe and gratitude. Elsie’s father finally lowered his paper.

“Arthur Wright,” he said to Mr. Gardner by way of introduction. Mr. Gardner shook his offered hand. “How did you hear about the girls’ photographs?” Arthur asked.

“Dear, I told you,” Elsie’s mother hurried to explain, “I shared them at the Theosophical Society’s lecture in Bradford last year. Mr. Gardner saw them and…”

“Became captivated by them!” Mr. Gardner finished merrily. “Now,” he turned to the girls, “if I may, where can I see the fairies?”

Elsie shifted her sketchbook slightly behind her and looked away. Frances scratched her foot again absentmindedly and said, “Well, the thing is, sir, you can’t.” The words were pulled from her slowly by the steady gaze of the eager theosophist. 

Mr. Gardner looked like a balloon that had just met a pin and began to deflate before their eyes. “I ca-” he began.

“Because they don’t show themselves to adults… especially men.” Elsie cut him off, giving Frances’ hand a squeeze.

A silence echoed around them as Mr. Gardner visibly fought with his disappointment. 

“Ah! Of course!” He said finally, re-inflating. “I should have guessed. Much like the myth of the Unicorn. Yes, very similar. I suppose it follows. Quite right. Say no more! That’s what the cameras are for after all. I will… well you two go and find the fairies, and I will…”

“Would you like a cup of tea Mr. Gardner?” Elsie’s mother offered. “And maybe some biscuits while you wait?”

Mr. Gardner beamed. It was settled. The girls were each given a new camera and set off towards the beck, a small stream in the woods at the back of the property. Mr. Gardner remained inside with Mr. and Mrs. Wright as the latter suggested. The former skeptic, Mr. Wright was only too eager to insist that he had believed, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in the photographs from the moment he saw them. 

Elsie and Frances, feet still wet from earlier, carried their cameras and a pouch filled with secrets into the woods. 

“Isn’t it wonderful to have Sherlock Holmes investigate our fairies?” Frances whispered. “What if he finds out they’re fake?”

“What if he doesn’t?” Elsie whispered even quieter, her eyes sparkled.

It had drizzled all morning and tiny pearls of rain glistened from leaves and petals across the garden. As the girls passed through the trees, their pace slowed to one of reverence. Their hands fell to their sides to caress the still-damp leaves in their path. Moss absorbed their footfalls. Their steady breathing mingled and became lost in the breeze flickering through the trees. Sunlight shone in dappled patterns around them, illuminating their eyelashes and dancing through their hair. The beck giggled away to their right, guiding their course.

Theirs was a place of whispers.

Standing stone still, moss creeping up their heels, the girls paused with hands held. The sounds of the woods floated around them. A robin’s song rippled from a nearby branch. It did not take much imagination to believe that this was a realm for fairies.

The girls set to work. Elsie, with an artist’s eye, selected the perfect location. Frances readied one of the cameras and passed Elsie the small pouch. Elsie carefully retrieved a few hatpins and her latest creation: a delicate dancing figure with dragonfly wings, her arms outstretched and toes pointed, carefully cut from paper. Admiring the way the sunlight shimmered through the thin paper, she began positioning the tiny figure among the leaves and secured it with a hatpin. She stood back to regard the effect with her head tilted, readjusted the hatpin, and considered it again. It was a while before she was satisfied.

“Ok, now Frances, you stand there and look as though this fairy is flying towards you… hang on, let me fix your ribbon.”

The shutter clicked and clicked again. The paper coming to life with each picture captured. Finally, as though completing a ritual, the girls took their little paper muses to the beck and watched them float away. One got caught briefly in an eddy and Elsie swore she heard it laughing. 

Once the film had been developed, the girls showed their pictures to Mr. Gardner triumphantly. He was speechless for a time and appeared to be blurred around the edges, such was his excitement. 

“Marvelous!” he exclaimed. “Oh I can just hear my dear friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle now, I’ll show him the photographs and ask, ‘Is this mere imagination?’ and he will laugh that laugh of his and reply, ‘How often is imagination the mother of truth?’” Mr. Gardner chuckled to himself, then, seeing the blank look on the girls’ faces, added, “Just a little Sherlock Holmes joke for you.”

They smiled weakly.

A few months passed after Mr. Gardner’s visit. Elsie was reading to Frances by the fire. A shriek shattered the tranquil moment and Elsie’s mother ran into the room holding a magazine and a crumpled letter to her breast.

“Girls! My darling girls! It’s your fairies! Sir Arthur- he’s written an article! Sent us a copy. In a magazine! Apparently it has already sold out. They’re having to reprint. Can you believe? You! You two have brought the discovery of fairies to the world!” She paused for breath, face glowing and letter still clutched tightly in her fist. She thrust the magazine at Elsie who accepted it in stunned silence.

“Arthur!” Elsie’s mother shrieked. “Arthur, you must see this!” and she vanished from the room as quickly as she had come.

The two girls looked at each other and Elsie slowly opened the magazine. There were their photographs in the middle of an eight page article boldly titled: The Evidence for Fairies. Their names had been changed, but their faces were very much still clearly in the photographs. 

Elsie quickly scanned the article and read the caption under the picture of Frances and the leaping fairy out loud, “‘The fairy is leaping up from leaves below and hovering for a moment. It had done so three or four times. Rising a little higher than before, Alice’ – that’s you Frances- ‘thought it would touch her face and involuntarily tossed her head back.’ He then says, ‘A girl of fifteen is old enough to be a good witness, and her flight and the clear detail of her memory point to a real experience.’”

She put a hand to her mouth as Frances snatched the magazine from her to read it herself.

“But…” Frances said finally, “he’s a detective!”

“No, he just writes about one.” Elsie said quietly.

“But he should be cleverer because he writes about one.”

“Maybe…” Elsie scanned the article again, her fingers brushing the image of the leaping fairy. “Maybe he just wants to believe they’re real?”

“Oh.” Frances scratched the top of one foot with the other, thinking. “Well… well now we really can’t tell him the truth.” she said.

“No. We’d ruin it.” Elsie agreed.

“So, what now?”

“I guess… the game is afoot. Not a word, Watson!”  

Images taken from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottingley_Fairies

To read Sir Arthur Conan’s article, The Evidence for Fairies visit: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/The_Evidence_for_Fairies