I wrote a grown-up version of the classic fairy tale, where Russe is armed with a shotgun, and the wolf had better watch out… It’s been available for a while, and I have a sequel plotted. I should work on that this summer. A conversation on facebook brought it to mind, so I am sharing one of the photos I took while I was making the cover art.
This one’s for you, Jack.
And here’s a snippet from the story: click on the cover above to buy a copy of your own.
Russe swept the hood of her cardinal off her head impatiently. In the windless forest she no longer needed the warmth, and it interfered with her peripheral vision. The ancient design of the cardinal cloak, which lent its name to the bird of the same color, still served her as well as it had the first settlers in this country. She hitched the packbasket she wore underneath it into a more comfortable position, and scanned the open woods for movement. At this time of year, with the ground frozen hard and most of the browse eaten, movement in the trees might well mean a starving wolf-pack. She carried a shotgun, of course, but it would mean little if there were too many of them.
She sighed and kept moving, her long red cloak flowing with her like a flame. As much as she might wish her Babushka would leave her cabin in the woods, she knew the allure of the forest too well to deny it. Her mother had sniffed that morning, though, as she packed the basket, “Your grandmother hasn’t the sense of a newborn calf, living out there. I wish she’d come and live with us. We built that apartment just for her, and what does she do? Sends me a bunch of mayflowers and a polite refusal. Well, even if she doesn’t think of her own safety, she ought to think of yours, now that your father is ill. You aren’t safe, either, tramping through the forest alone…”
There had been much more along those lines, but her mother had packed the basket as she always did, with the things Babushka could not grow on her own, like salt and sugar, some spices, and fabric to make a new dress. It was heavy, but Russe didn’t mind. She bore heavy burdens every day now, since she had taken over the running of the farm.
A flicker of moving shadow caught her eye. Someone was walking behind her, but his shadow fell just at the edge of her vision. She kept walking, alert now and nervous. No-one else lived nearby, and it was too late in the year to be a hunter. Now she could hear the crunch of his steps as they crossed a patch of snow. She followed the path automatically, all her focus on the unseen pursuer. They went on like this for a long time, her hand clenching around the stock of the gun she held unseen beneath her cloak. They wound on, around the black trunks of the evergreens that cut off more and more of the light. Only the shimmering whiteness of the deepening snow lit their way now. Russe’s cloak looked black in the growing darkness, but still she paced onward, determined not to betray her knowledge of her stalker.