Into the Moonless Night
By A.E. Decker
Moonfall & Mayhem:, Book 3
Fantasy Young Adult/Adult
Catch Starthorne has spent a lifetime running from the prophecy that names him as the one who will save the shifter race, but now that he has returned to his home in Clawcrags, he may have to face his destiny. Determined to slip through fate’s fingers, Catch sows confusion, making friends from foes, mixing up the occasional sleeping death potion, and matching wits with an overbearing lion-shifter, who appears to have plans of his own.
While Catch schemes, Ascot works to retrieve him with the help of a witch and a pair of madcap shifter rebels. But every attempt to reach him earns her fresh enemies and embroils her ever deeper in the conspiracies surrounding the prophecy. After five hundred years of repressed tension and social strife, the Clawcrags are ready to explode—and it sometimes seems someone’s working hard to see that they do!
“Falling of the Moon is a fantasy fairytale like nothing I have read before. Mystery and secrets take you to a fantastic mystical world sure to have a book two. It is Pirates of the Caribbean meets Cinderella. Looking forward to Ascot’s next adventure. Strong and determined with her loyal friends she will certainly make the Moonfall Mayhem a great series of books. I am ecstatic that this is just the start to what will be a truly great trilogy.” — Girl + Book
“I’d say it’s like Shrek meets The Wizard of Oz if Dorothy were Wednesday Addams and Toto a talking cat with bat wings. Fun and funny with many laugh-out- loud moments. Can’t wait for the next book in the series!” — Susan Abel Sullivan, author of the Cleo Tidwell Paranormal Mystery series
“A unique and clever fantasy, The Falling of the Moon is a thoroughly entertaining read from first page to last. Very highly recommended and certain to be an enduring favorite.” —Midwest Book Review
“If you’re looking for a great Autumn and Halloween read then look no further, this series has everything you need for a cozy fall evening spent reading. This one is 5/5 stars for me, it’s absolutely perfect and a must read!” —Hollie Ohs Book Reviews
A.E. Decker hails from Pennsylvania. A former doll-maker and ESL tutor, she earned a master’s degree in history, where she developed a love of turning old stories upside-down to see what fell out of them. This led in turn to the writing of her YA novel, The Falling of the Moon. A graduate of Odyssey 2011, her short fiction has appeared in such venues as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fireside Magazine, and elsewhere. Like all writers, she is owned by three cats. Come visit her, her cats, and her fur Daleks at www.wordsmeetworld.com or on Twitter @moonfallmayhem.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve lived most of my adult life in Pennsylvania, in the city of Bethlehem, which was first settled by Moravians in the first half of the eighteenth century. We get a lot of tourists here around Christmas. There’s also a lot of history; George Washington and Lafayette both stayed here during the Revolutionary war, as well as several other of the Founding Fathers. I suppose it’s not surprising that I decided to earn an MA in colonial American history, although I specialized in the politics of Delaware—or, the “three lower counties” as it was then known.
Of course, shortly after earning my MA, I decided to write fantasy instead. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I attempted to write my first book at the age of six or so but didn’t have the attention span. I’d somehow gotten the notion that writing was something you did after you’d gotten a “real job.” I suppose it stems from the cliché that everyone has a book in them. That may be true, but getting that book out involves a great deal of work! I was lucky enough to get into first the Viable Paradise Workshop in 2008, then the Odyssey Writers’ Workshop in 2011. Attending these writing seminars gave me the tools and confidence to pursue a career in writing seriously. A year after Odyssey, I started selling short stories. About a year after that, World Weaver Press accepted my first novel, The Falling of the Moon.
Tell us a little about your latest book
Into the Moonless Night is the third book of the YA fantasy Moonfall Mayhem series. On the surface, they appear to be mostly quirky humor, but there are some serious questions about social issues brewing underneath. All of the books in the series play off tropes common to other fantasy literature. The Falling of the Moon mostly played off fairy tale themes, while book two, The Meddlers of Moonshine, tackled Gothic literature. Into the Moonless Night is a twist on working Tolkien themes.
The protagonist is Catch Starthorne, a roguish Smilodon-shifter who is dragged back to his homeland, the Clawcrags, to confront a prophecy that has shadowed him his entire life. While he was living in exile, the situation in the Clawcrags has grown tense. Shifter-society is highly stratified. The animal you transform into determines exactly what position you’re allowed to hold, what kind of work you can take up. Lion-shifters are the leaders, dog-shifters are guards, and some shifters are so unusual that there’s no place for them—they’re cast out. By the time Catch returns, a revolution over this hierarchy is brewing and he must decide whether to help the rebels or try to flee the prophecy altogether.
Did you learn any interesting facts while creating your story?
Because this book involves people who transform into animals, I did a lot of research into animal behaviour. The protagonist, Catch, transforms into a Smilodon, so I read a couple of books that tried to restructure Smilodons from the fossils we have and figure out how they might have hunted. I learned that their sabre fangs are actually fairly delicate, and their bite weak compared to a lion’s. Their neck muscles, however, appear to have been both powerful and flexible, so most likely they would sink their sabre teeth near a prey animal’s major artery, then give a powerful, backward jerk with those neck muscles, severing it. In other words, their prey likely bled to death. Lions, in contrast use a choke hold. Sorry if this got a little graphic—I’m a bit of a natural history geek!
Another fascinating animal fact I learned is that stoats—short-tailed weasels—can actually hypnotize rabbits into not bolting by doing a crazy kind of “war dance.” The rabbits get so involved in watching the stoat jump about they don’t notice it getting closer until it’s too late. Once I learned that, I had to include it in my book—you’ll have to read Into the Moonless Night to find out how.
Who are your favorite authors?
Terry Pratchett, of Discworld fame, is my favorite author. I love his thoughtful brand of humor. I also enjoy V. E. Schwab’s writing, Neil Gaiman, of course, Susannah Clarke, Kim Newman, Hilary Mantel, and Brian Kesinger’s delightful Otto and Victoria picture books.
There’s also quite a few classic writers I go back to, such as Austen, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and the Bronte sisters. I try to read cross-genre, although I admit mysteries and thrillers are really my thing. I also read quite a bit of non-fiction, especially books on animal behaviour and evolution. Recently, I’ve been reading every book on cephalopods I can get my hands on.
Tell us your writing process
I stick to a schedule of writing every single morning from about eight or nine o’ clock to twelve-thirty or one o’ clock. So, I get three to four solid hours of writing in every day. I believe keeping a routine helps establish good writing habits; a day doesn’t seem entirely complete unless I’ve written something.
As for “how I write,” I’m a bit of a terrible re-writer. I can put down a lot of words in a single session—I’ve written as many as two thousand words in an hour—but the next time I sit down to write, I’ll often find myself editing and re-writing what I have rather than forging ahead. This is my bad habit, which I’m trying to break. It’s best to finish the story and revise afterwards.
What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?
Work hard to develop a writing routine. If you don’t get yourself accustomed to writing daily, it becomes much easier to make excuses not to write, and soon you’ll find yourself writing very little or not at all. Don’t get discouraged. Submit your work, don’t take rejections to heart, and try again. Find a balance between accepting advice from critics and having confidence in your own work. Keep a sense of humor.
What are you working on now?
I just submitted the first draft of book four, A Trick of the Moonlight, to my editor, Laura Harvey. It’ll come back to me for revisions in a couple months. There’s one more book in the Moonfall Mayhem series after that. Meanwhile, I’m working on the third book in my as-yet-unpublished urban fantasy series about a tomato-obsessed hitman of the supernatural.
I’ve also started/outlined another stand-alone YA novel, as well as a more adult steampunk book, and a Weird Western world that my short story “Bloodsilver,” published in the Lawless Lands anthology by Falstaff Books is a part of. In addition to that, I am still working with the Bethlehem Writers Group. We put out an anthology every couple years, two of which I edited. I’m not editing Untethered, the next one on our schedule, but I will have a couple stories in it.
How do you spend your spare time?
I enjoy cooking, particularly baking. I’m told my gingerbread and peanut butter bars just might be worth beating up small children for. I enjoy reading, of course, and like to sew and knit. But if I really want to kick back, playing video games is my favorite. The ones I like best are Bloodborne, the Dragon Age series, the Dark Souls series, and Don’t Starve.
“What’s the Moonless Night?” asked Dmitri. Beside him, Moony had worked up to a rude place in his washing, tail slapping the ground hard enough to raise dust.
“Supposedly, it’s when Magden Le Fou’s prophecy will be fulfilled,” Jolt replied. “It’s a lunar eclipse occurring three nights after the vernal equinox.”
The prophecy, thought Ascot. The frabjacketing prophecy. Something about a golden star and—well, Catch hadn’t elected to tell her much else, save that the shifters of the Clawcrawgs thought he was the golden star. Which was ridiculous. Had any of them ever looked at scruffy, roguish Catch? Heard him lie with a straight face, or seen him guzzle more coffee than anyone’s kidneys could stand?
Frabjacket, how she missed him.
Dipping his head, Dmitri scratched the ground. Abruptly, his nostrils flared. “That’s only nine days from now.”
Ascot’s throat turned into a stretch of dust. “Nine days?” It came out as a dry squeak. She worked some saliva into her mouth and swallowed. “What will become of Catch if nothing happens on the Moonless Night?”
She didn’t want to hear it: the confirmation of her worst fears. Had to hear it, just so she’d know. Jolt lifted a brow, seeming surprised that she’d even ask. “If he’s not the golden star, then he’s just another slipskin. There’s only one penalty for slipping your skin in the Clawcrags.” Jolt gave his earlobe a final tug. “Execution.”
Ascot fell away inside herself. The world, shadowed and dark, floated at a distance, as if she stared at it through the cavern of her own skull. Every sound droned and echoed. Only the bloc, bloc of yet another cicada came to her, crisp as the ticking of some mocking clock.
She almost didn’t hear Jolt speak again. “Want us to help rescue him?”