It's ghost season!
I've shared with you that fireflies are sacred to Mae's culture, but of all the species that live in the Silverwood Mountains, the blue ghost fireflies are among the most revered, and the ones that Mae misses most during her exile.
Blue ghosts are a real thing (Phausis reticulata), about as close to magic as we can get in our world. They don't flash or blink--- they glow a steady, moonlight-blue color, and they float a few inches off the ground, like a silent fairy slow-dance. They're found only in a small region of southern Appalachia. April and May are great times to look for them---if you live near Great Smoky Mountains National Park or any one of the state or national forests in the area (Pisgah or DuPont especially), you can look for them yourself. I've also seen them along the Chattooga River and near Jones Gap State Park (SC). Ask a ranger if they know of good places to look. They like damp, dark places under the trees (the bugs, not the rangers), so close to creeks or rivers is a good bet.
But please! If you do find some, stay out of the area they're flying. The females don't fly, and trying to catch the males mean you can easily step on the females. (Mae is setting a bad example here. Stay on the path, Mae!) Keep light to a minimum; put red cellophane over your flashlight or headlamp to avoid disturbing them and killing your night vision.
Great Smokies also has an annual Firefly Festival that will be coming up later in the spring, which is a fantastic place to see the ghosts and another incredible species--- the synchronous fireflies. I'll be back in the ranger hat again, helping host the event, one of my favorite parts of working in the Smokies. Suffice to say, nature is awesome and magic is real!
I had a whole bulleted list typed up categorizing my undying love for author Megan Whalen Turner’s work, but I’ve already annoyed Twitter enough with my fangirling, so I’ll keep it brief.
I’ve posted about MWT’s Queen’s Thief series before, so you can understand how excited I was to get an advanced copy of her newest book, Thick as Thieves. For those unfamiliar with this series, the first book came out in 1996. The book currently releasing is book five. Needless to say, Thief fans are accustomed to long, agonizing waits between books. Regardless, I’ve been a staunch fan of Turner and her protagonist, Eugenides, for a solid twenty years. Each of her books reveals something different upon every re-read, and her characters have a way of making you retroactively fall in love with them, sometimes several books later.
Turner has had more impact on my writing voice and my love for storytelling than any other author, and Thick as Thieves did not disappoint. Even knowing Turner’s hallmark style of a slow, simmering story building up to a thunderbolt moment at the end, she still managed to surprise me. She never wastes a character, or a scene, or a sentence. Her books don’t talk down to the reader—they’re smart and subtle and poignant, often disguised as wit or blunder. Which, come to think of it, is Eugenides’ style as well.
I’m excited to see this series having a renaissance, to see Thief fans crawling out of the woodwork as we do every five or six years. Only this time it’s different, because now we can all find each other on social media. And it’s different for me, because now I have my own books published—by the same publisher as Turner, no less—books that have been directly influenced by her work.
The advanced copy of this book came to me at exactly the right time (largely because I suspect my best friend Caitlin is not just my unofficial publicist, but my guardian angel as well). I’ve been feeling very down and overwhelmed by my work and life in general, and at first I felt guilty for reading Thick as Thieves rather than buckling down on my pressing deadlines. But slipping back into Turner’s world was the right choice—it reminded me, as it always does, why I love storytelling. Why I started writing in the first place, and the kind of smart, nuanced writing I aspire to. I still haven’t fully found my feet again, but Turner and her protagonist have given me a shove in the right direction.
So of course I procrastinated longer by illustrating a scene.
If you’re a fan of this series and trying to stay unspoiled for this book, click away now and come back to it after release day. If not, carry on. It doesn’t give away much beyond the fact that Gen is too clever for anyone’s good, which any reader of the series could tell you.
I found him... wholly changed, in fact, but for the scar on his face and that smile. Or perhaps, I thought, he has not changed. Perhaps it is just the world that has changed. Perhaps he was only by accident at the edge of this court and had slowly and inevitably drawn all of it into orbit around him.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator