In The Red blog tour

So pleased to be part of the tour for Selah. I interviewed her back on March 14th so I’m excited to have her back again to share her new book In The Red. Selah has a guest post for all to enjoy. Check it out as well as In The Red

Live like a rock star.

Dance ‘til you die.

Are you in? 

I love fairy tales and have since I was little. Princesses who come into their own, maidens who find their true love through trial and error, apprentices who go to make their way in the world and end up finding a fortune, faeries in disguise, talking animals, evil enchantresses, trolls, jealous queens, getting lost in the woods, torture of those who’ve wronged you, deals with shadowy figures, cursed objects, ghosts and spirits, the chance to be spirited away into a dark enchanted land…

People tend to forget that there are a lot of fairy tales. A lot. And these stories aren’t all the traditional ‘guy meets girl; they fall in love, magic stuff happens, happy ever after.’ In their earlier forms, fairy tale heroes and heroines had to really work for that reward. Often times they start on their adventures not because they want to, but because they have to. Something terrible happens: a parent dies, they’re kicked out of the house, forced into slave labor, a parent starts to like them a little too much, they’re an inadvertent sacrifice, they’re abandoned…it’s never “oh I don’t have enough going on so I’m going to have a magic adventure and spend the rest of my whole life happy.” Even the most familiar fairy tale characters are brought to rock bottom before they can reach their full potential. They have to work through their own problems and with some work and a little luck and magic, they can turn their lives around.

I grew up reading and watching fairy tales in every variation, and at some point I realized that a lot of things were toned down. I also quickly discovered that I didn’t want my magic toned down…I wanted to see the characters go through hardships, I wanted to know that they had difficulties and weren’t the perfect princesses they seemed to be. Otherwise, it was nice brain candy, but it was distant and something I couldn’t relate to.

Somewhere in all of this, I discovered Hans Christian Andersen. I was familiar with some of his stories, and they definitely had a different feel than Grimm, Perrault, and other folk tales. If I could find possibility (albeit possibility tinged with darkness) in those stories, then Andersen’s tales were a punch in the face. If you’ve experienced them, then you know that you’re not guaranteed a happy ending. His mermaids end up dealing with their unrequited love alone, his toys find love only by melting together, his match girls end up disappointed, his Christmas trees have existential crises, and his ducklings nearly get killed multiple times before they find out who and what they really are. These weren’t stories I felt comfortable reading over and over again…and yet I couldn’t look away.

One of his stories that impacted me the most was his tale of ‘The Red Shoes.’ It deals with a little orphan girl who’s taken in and faces a choice between the things she thinks she wants. What’s more important – a family and a place to belong, or the glittering, shiny pair of red shoes she tricks her guardian into getting for her? This story is a little grisly, a lot moralistic, and blew my mind when I first read it. And then I put it far, far away because those were issues I didn’t want to think about as a kid.

Many, many years later I found myself thinking about a pair of red boots and forming the vague idea of a character. A rock star began to take form in my mind, just a guy who wanted to be the best rocker in the world more than anything else. It was an obsession, and he was willing to do anything to get it, including give himself up without even realizing it. And yet…it had been done a hundred times before. There were only so many ways to write about addiction, fame, and sundry otherworldly deals. And then I remembered the shoes and a story I read as a kid whose themes haven’t been explored nearly enough.

I’m not a fan of direct retellings, so I added a few demons here, slathered on some rock n’ roll decadence there, and came up with a few urban legends to cement the legend of the boots that were practically glowing in my mind’s eye. It fit together perfectly – rock n’ roll was as otherworldly as some fairy tale lands, and there was plenty of grey territory for my protagonist to get caught up in. So I wrote it as a short story and was satisfied…until I realized that there was more. I couldn’t just let my lead character suffer and stay where he was. There was a whole other half to his story to be told, the half that would lead him back to some sort of resolution…or at least the hopeful potential to move on. That’s what also makes fairy tales great – there’s always the chance for the characters to grow beyond what they started out as. If there’s not a definite happy ever after, there’s at least a chance for hope.

And perhaps that’s why I love fairy tales most of all…not only do they give characters a chance to work through enormous odds, but they give everyone a chance to work towards their happiness, if they’re willing to take a chance.


They’re mine. I’m really holding them, Jeremiah realized. I’m holding history that isn’t supposed to exist. When The One took the stage, any competition turned tail and ran. It was said that the one time the singer revealed what he looked like the crowds were moved to tears by his beauty and sophistication, and tore each other apart because they couldn’t get to him. Some said it was a conspiracy that complete copies of his songs didn’t exist because the music was too potent to release to the public. There were people who still worshipped the mystery, the music, the outfits, and the boots.

And now those people would come to him.

“Go on. Try them on,” Jack encouraged. Jeremiah nodded and carefully put the platforms on the floor. Shaking with nerves, the youth sat and guided his feet into the cherry red sheaths. Electricity crackled along his instep and through his toes. He tugged the vinyl up over his calf and gasped. Jeremiah was overtaken by a sudden burn, a sudden ant-crawling of power that worked its way through his skin and into his very soul.

“What the—” he choked. The plastic spasmed, tightened around his foot, and then relaxed. The left boot stretched itself a little higher up his calf and extended its sole and heel a little more to adapt to his needs. Jeremiah thought he had imagined it, but the right boot immediately followed suit. The matching sets of the laces squirmed and rippled, settling into a slightly different pattern than when they were taken out of their box. A quick look around proved that while everyone in the room was looking, Jack was the only other person that actually saw. “Did they just…?” Jeremiah couldn’t bring himself to say something so bizarre. He barely managed to hold back a cry when a thousand tiny needle teeth nibbled his skin from toes to knees. A tingling sensation spread under his skin and Jeremiah was filled with a rush of violent confidence that almost made him swoon.

“Good. They fit,” Jack said. Only his tiny, mysteriously cruel little smile hinted that he was aware of the boots’ strange behavior.

The longer Jeremiah looked at himself the more he realized that he could do no wrong. My life just changed. With these on my feet, my past is gone. I’m going to be better than I ever thought possible.

All around him the yes-men and hangers-on gaped.

“You look so good!” the store footman practically swooned. His vinyl and lace frock coat danced under the fluttering movements of his hands. His sharp, pale face flushed with excitement underneath the stylized Victorian wig.

“I’m gonna cry you look so good!” the blonde assistant squealed, gripping Jack’s knee as if she’d keel over if she didn’t have it there to support her. “It’s like I’m witnessing history!”

The faces that surround him were positively thunderstruck and at his mercy. The camera kept right on clicking. Jeremiah got to his feet and struck a few more ambitious poses, dropping into a low crouch before kicking a leg up in an insane bastardization of a round kick.  It didn’t matter that he’d grown up looking like every other average guy in Middle America. It didn’t matter that he’d been more accustomed to cotton T-shirts and washed-out blue jeans than the clothes Jack had him wearing. The overall look wasn’t complete, but the boots pulled everything together. The added height evened out his lanky proportions. In some unlikely way the platforms made his stubble-sporting, angular face look downright exotic. His eyes blazed liquid brown heat and his dishwater hair almost glowed under the dressing room lights.

Jeremiah sashayed around the tiny space and leapt onto the low podium at the room’s center, full of a burning drive to do something. He wanted to sing. He wanted to rock. He wanted to dance, and he’d never had that sort of urge before in his life. Every school dance he’d ever gone to had involved him either playing in the band or drinking contraband beverages with his friends outside the building. “Guess I’m a natural!” he laughed. He knew he was lying, Jack knew he was lying, but there was no reason for anyone else to know the truth. Why bother with the truth when the image in the mirror was so much better?

He had expected his balance to be shaky in the tall platforms, but it was like the boots were built for him. He hadn’t thought to check the size. Maybe The One wasn’t the original owner; maybe they conformed to whoever wore them. Jeremiah’s face glowed when he looked at his mirror image. His reflection looked as giddy and ecstatic as he felt. Why do I care what they are? If they work, they work! His eyes dropped to the new footwear. He was just able to see the tiny, warped image of his face in the shiny toes. Everything’s going to be amazing from now on. As he admired his distorted image via his feet,  all of his hang-ups and personality drained out of him. Who needs a personality with boots like these?

Jack Scratch watched his protégé glided round the room, that same tiny, dangerous smile just barely curling his full mouth. “Just think. What you have on represents everything that you want to be,” he coached. His words drilled through the rocker’s ears and hardwired themselves into the deepest parts of Jeremiah’s heart and soul. “They’re everything you want on your side. These boots are temptation and chaos, just like you. I’ve got it,” he declared. “I’ve got your name.”

“Give it to me,” a raspy voice in front of the mirror breathed.

“Forget Jeremiah Kensington: folk singer, blue jean rocker, country boy, small town loser,” Jack breathed, his giant hands fervently patting down his front until he found which jacket pocket his cigarettes were hidden in. It was amazing that he didn’t gouge himself in the chest given the sharpened tip of the massive silver ring that enveloped his right forefinger. The manager leaned back against the sofa and lit up, never once taking his eyes off his new golden boy and meal ticket. “From now on you are J.K. Asmodeus, rock star and corrupter of the masses.” A thin plume of smoke stretched up to frame his intense expression.

J.K. looked from Jack to the man in the mirror, saw how the red glitter of the boots was echoed in his eyes. “Yes.”

The two ignored the gasps and commentary around them as everyone texted photos and alerted the necessary paparazzi. The pair shared a slow smile as Jack inhaled another draw of nicotine. “It’s time to sign,” he murmured. The smoke crept in front of his face and turned his pleased expression into something that bordered on animalistic. He removed the top sheet of the stack he’d been examining and held it out to the younger man.

I should wait and consult a lawyer. I should take my time. These things need to be done with care, a distant echo of a Midwestern conscience chided. J.K. ignored it, grinned back at his manager, and reached for the fountain pen the manager handed him. His expression was almost as malevolent as Jack’s, though there were still traces of wholesomeness that had yet to drain away. “Let’s do it.”

 Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror, but can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane.
She has four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including the historical vampire story ‘Mooner’ and the contemporary short ‘The Other Man’. Her work has also been included in ‘The MacGuffin’, ‘The Realm Beyond’, ‘Stories for Children Magazine’, and the upcoming Wicked East Press anthology ‘Bedtime Stories for Girls’. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.

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  1. This book sounds like so much fun! I love retellings that have their own life and tangents. This is going on the list for sure. 🙂

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