Today I am so pleased to welcome J.S. Fields to Joyfully Jay. J.S. has come to talk to us about their latest release, Foxfire in the Snow. They have also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving J.S. a big welcome!

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Setting the Semi-Historical Time Period for FOXFIRE IN THE SNOW

The primary theme of FOXFIRE IN THE SNOW is discussing—and breaking—binary choices. I wanted to have the narrative parallel to Sorin’s gender journey, so I chose, loosely, the late 1700s-early 1800s of Western Europe, specifically Germanic Europe, as a time and location.

This was a unique time in Europe’s history, where many still believed in magic (and the direct magic of god to change things immediately in life, such as turning one thing into another) but alchemy was starting to root into what we now know as science. The book starts off with just two options – Sorin can choose magic or alchemy. Sorin initially chooses alchemy due to a love of potions and extractions, but bounces off the more magical elements, like transfiguration.

The end goal of course is the third option, chemistry. Hence, the time period was critical as chemistry was really just in its infancy then, as alchemists sorted what could be reliably done (extractions, solutions, etc.) and what probably was just bunk (philosopher’s stones). I was able to insert a number of real-world elements, such as bone oil (an early version of the solvent pyridine), the first work on xylindein (the blue-green pigment produce by little cup fungi known as ‘elf’s cup’), and various other solvents.

The other interesting aspect of this time period is the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The drama of guilds closing and workers leaving for factories is a backdrop to the main narrative, but the attentive reader will be able to pick out real-world elements, particularly the switch from hand-wrought nails to mass produced, power looms, water-powered lathes, etc. Most interesting for me, and the place where I definitely took some liberties, was in the marquetry guild (in FOXFIRE, called ‘woodcutting’).

Marquetry and Intarsia using natural wood colors were very popular forms of decorative woodwork in Europe from about the 1400s-late 1600s, and into a bit of the 1700s. As chemistry developed, woodworkers were able to develop longer-lasting dyes, and so natural wood colors faded into artificial. But there was a brief, shining moment in the 1600s where the only blue-green color available came from the fungus known as ‘elf’s cup,’ a little cup-shaped fungus native to the region, that stains the wood it grows on an amazing turquois color.

As chemistry was not yet advanced enough to make a long-lasting blue-green, this stained wood was worth its weight in gold for the guilds that knew how to process it. How they propagated the fungus at a time when people didn’t know microorganisms existed is unknown and remains a mystery to this day.

For FOXFIRE I made Sorin the mastermind behind this discovery, but pushed the timeline to a point where stronger solvents were in use. Hence, Sorin uses bone oil (pyradine) to extract the blue-green from the fungus, and uses it to dye commissioned marquetry for the family business. It’s just a little bit of super-nerdy woodworking history that, for me, makes the world richer and more three dimensional.

There are a number of other real-world tie ins within FOXFIRE, but I won’t spoil them all. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!


Blurb

foxfire in the snow coverBorn the heir of a master woodcutter in a queendom defined by guilds and matrilineal inheritance, nonbinary Sorin can’t quite seem to find their place. At seventeen, an opportunity to attend an alchemical guild fair and secure an apprenticeship with the queen’s alchemist is just within reach. But on the day of the fair, Sorin’s mother goes missing, along with the Queen and hundreds of guild masters, forcing Sorin into a woodcutting inheritance they never wanted.

With guild legacy at stake, Sorin puts apprentice dreams on hold to embark on a journey with the royal daughter to find their mothers and stop the hemorrhaging of guild masters. Princess Magda, an estranged childhood friend, tests Sorin’s patience—and boundaries. But it’s not just a princess that stands between Sorin and their goals. To save the country of Sorpsi, Sorin must define their place between magic and alchemy or risk losing Sorpsi to rising industrialization and a dark magic that will destroy Sorin’s chance to choose their own future.

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Bio

J.S. Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chainmail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans.


Giveaway

J.S. is giving away a signed paperback copy of “Ardulum First Don” OR “Ardulum Second Don (winner’s choice), open to anyone, anywhere in the world:

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