In November 2013 I participated in Project REUTSway, a short story contest held for the first time by REUTS Publications. Two out of my three submitted stories were chosen for the anthology, Fairly Twisted Tales for a Horribly Ever After, which was published in October 2014.
The first version of contest had participants twist a well-known fairy tale with some kind of horror element: vampires, zombies, demons, werewolves/shapeshifters. This year, instead of fairy tales, the contest theme was world mythology. Each week a different culture was featured: Egyptian, Celtic, Asian, and Eastern European. Each challenge had a twist.
I submitted stories for the Egyptian and Asian challenges. In the Egyptian challenge, the twist was to adapt an Egyptian myth, but give it a different setting. In the Asian challenge, we could either write a totally original story or retell a fairy tale, as long as the story featured an Asian mythical creature.
I knew right away that I wanted to adapt the Egyptian myth The Artful Thief for the first story, but wasn’t sure how to change up the setting. Part of the rules was it still had to somehow be Egypt.
Melody Winter, another Project REUTSway participant, posted a picture on Twitter of the Egyptian god Set. It showed a bunch of bloody, severed body parts. My first thought was, “These Egyptian myths are like gangster stories!”
So I reworked The Artful Thief as a gangster story set in the 1920s. (I had just finished watching the final season of Boardwalk Empire and was in a very gangster-y mood.) While perusing a web site with a list of 1920s gangster slang, I noticed that $100 bills were called “centuries.” So I called the story The Century Room, after the room a gangster called “The Pharaoh” hides all his “centuries.”
I was very excited and pleased when The Century Room was picked as a “Top Look” for Week 1’s challenge.
I had every intention of entering the Celtic challenge, because of all the cultures represented in the contest, I was most familiar with Celtic myth and folklore. However, part of the challenge was to put the story in the point of view of a Celtic mythological creature.
I tried. I really tried. But I couldn’t get past the point of view requirement. Every idea I had for a story didn’t seem to work if it was in the point of view of the creature. Other Project REUTSway participants threw out ideas and encouragement (such a great group of people!) but nothing seemed to work and I finally threw in the towel.
For the Asian story, I decided to retell the dark fairy tale The Robber Bridegroom and feature the “jiangshi”–the Chinese version of the vampire. I also drew inspiration from the beginning of Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, where a girl who is a virtual slave is bought as a wife by a poor farmer. I mashed that together with the story of The Robber Bridegroom and the legend of the jiangshi.
We were given extra time to do the last challenge during Thanksgiving week, but due to some family issues I wasn’t able to attempt the Eastern European challenge. I may still work on some of the ideas I was kicking around for that challenge.
I was a little bummed I only managed to complete two of the four challenges, but yesterday was thrilled to find out both were chosen for the anthology!
I’ll be posting updates about publication date/anthology title/etc. as soon as the information is available.
Congratulations to all the other Project REUTSway 2014 winners!