Theme anthologies like this one always present an interesting challenge. Do you create something brand new to fit the editor's requirements? Do you go rummaging around in the files for something old to see if it fits?
For my story in When The Hero Comes Home, I started out thinking about something completely new. I'd been reading a lot of Howard Pyle when the first e-mail from the editors arrived and the soldier going "tramp, tramp, tramp" up the road kept echoing through my head. But that tale didn't quite have the feel that I wanted. Although bits are written and filed away for future reference.
Instead, as the deadline drew nearer and this writer's thoughts grew darker -- usually around 2 a.m. for me -- I remembered another story beginning that I had, one I'd always liked, that stated "She spun widdershins three times and spat in the coal dust."
What I liked then, and now, was that "widdershins" is one of those lovely old words that you encounter in fairytales. "Coal dust," however, belongs to a whole different category. So why both in the same sentence? What about a world where magic and technology warred, and sometimes a hero ended up scraping spells in coal dust as she tried to run away from her mistakes?
By the time I was done, it was a completely different story that I originally envisioned but the "Ashes of the Bonfire Queen" fit the theme in the way that I wanted. A number of other authors tackled the same question about what happens when heroes go home and came up with completely different answers. And that's always the interesting part of being involved in a project like this.
As for the other soldier, the one going "tramp, tramp, tramp" up the road, she's been filed away for another day. Because somebody will ask me for a story and it will be the right road for that hero.