R. Chris Reeder has a new queer YA fantasy out (bi, lesbian): The Trickster’s Sister.
After getting kidnapped by a demigod and imprisoned in another dimension, Makayla was really hoping that her life would get back to normal. Or at least as normal as life could be when you had a goblin for a best friend.
But now her sleepy midwestern town is being invaded by shadows. Her neighbors are being stolen away and replaced by changelings. And when she tries to escape, her path threatens to take her to the one place she never wanted to return to: the mysterious and dangerous Land of Annwfyn.
Blink. Blink blink. Blink. The tiny red orb, flickering in the dark, flew across the room and landed in a pile of dirty socks before shooting back into the air. It sputtered briefly and then flared back to life, darting one way and then the other, searching for anything to distract itself from the ennui that threatened to engulf it. Out of the stillness, a voice keened softly to the orb as it meandered along the walls and ceiling of what most people would swear was a perfectly normal bedroom in a perfectly normal house in a perfectly normal suburb.
“Hello, red dot, my old friend,
I’ve come to stare at you again,
Because you’re not the homework I should be doing,
The history paper that I am…eschewing,
And I hope that word…means what I think it means,
…I like baked beans,
‘Cause that’s the sound…of laser pointer…by which I mean this magic laser pointer that was given to me by an old woman in an abandoned appliance store but now it doesn’t seem to be magic anymore since all it does is make a regular red dot on my ceiling while I should be doing my homework and now this is the end of my song.”
The singing was replaced by soft clapping and the whispered roar of a crowd.
“Applause. Applause. Wild applause. No, no. No money, I couldn’t, no, I could never accept money for my art. Well, if you insist.”
Everything had been so weird lately, ever since she got back from the Land of Annwfyn. Annwfyn, the mysterious Otherworld. Annwfyn, home to goblins and demigods and clockwork chickens. Annwfyn, the Land of Not Enough Vowels. Why couldn’t everything just go back to normal, she wondered for at least the millionth time. After she defeated the villain, sent the boss goblin packing, and saved her baby sister, she figured she could slip back into the regular life of a moody and socially incompetent fourteen-year-old girl in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Except, of course, for the tiny little point that she wasn’t exactly a girl. She was a goblin, a shape-changer from another dimension, capable of disappearing and turning into a white raven and granting wishes and bringing bad luck and a whole host of various other abnormalities that she didn’t care to think about. And also, she wasn’t fourteen anymore. She was fifteen now, as was clearly displayed on the gigantic, homemade banner from her recent birthday party, a party attended by every single one of her friends, by which she meant her best and only friend, Makayla. The Jeffersonville part, though, that was normal. As normal as could be. She sighed again, flopped back onto her bed, and sighed once more with extra drama, just for good measure.
She listened to the silence all around her. Everyone else in the family had been asleep for hours. At least she was pretty sure that her parents were, and she thought her brother probably was, although he rarely came out of his room these days. When he did, he was so quiet and sullen that it was hard to tell when he was in and when he was out. Her parents blamed it on the events of the previous year. Having your house assaulted by a demigod, having your sister go missing, finding out that you’re a goblin, it had been rough on him, her parents insisted. But, honestly, Brynn couldn’t really tell the difference. He’d been quiet and moody before it all went down and he was quiet and moody now. After everything that had happened—the near destruction of their house, the discovery of their magical origins, the advent of supernatural powers—he was still the same old Conn, more interested in the week’s new comics or in re-reading the Oz books for the umpteenth time than in engaging with the world around him.
She squinted at the ceiling. She needed to make a decision: work on her homework (sensible), try to sleep (useful), or procrastinate some more (probable). She was just reaching for the laser pointer again, for some more procrastinatey goodness, when she heard a noise. It came from outside, or at least she was pretty sure it did. It was close, that much she knew.
She crawled out of bed, sidled over to the window, and pulled the curtains aside. There was a shadow on the street. This, of course, wasn’t unusual to Brynn, but the fact that it was moving slowly down the sidewalk, seemingly of its own volition—that definitely caught her attention.
There was a streetlight in front of the house, but there wasn’t anything nearby that would potentially cast a shadow of that shape (vaguely humanoid, distinctly creepy), or really any shape at all. There was nothing between the streetlight and the shadow and yet there the shadow was, huddling in the darkness just on the other side of the fence that separated her yard from the sidewalk. Brynn craned her neck around to see if there was something she could be missing, some forgotten tree or misplaced shopping cart (after all, shadows didn’t just exist without anything to cast them), but she couldn’t get a good vantage from the little window of her corner room.
She was just about to crawl out onto the roof and investigate (despite the fact that she knew this was a terrible idea) when her phone rang. Keeping her eyes locked on the shadow, she reached out her hand to find it. On the second ring, the shadow’s head snapped around. The next instant, the shadow dissolved away with the wind.
“Who the hell,” she muttered, “would be hanging out in front of our house at this time of night?”
Brynn picked up her phone and slid her thumb across the screen to answer it.
R. Chris Reeder grew up in a tiny town you’ve never heard of and attended college in Walla Walla, Washington. He founded a theatre company, worked across the country as a professional Shakespearean actor, traveled the globe as an international courier, took a year and a half detour to be a singing activist, and then settled down into the comfortable life of a stay-at-home father and part-time author.
This is his second novel.
He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife, two children, and a pair of cats named Monster Jack and Tiny Jill.