Flo knew the magic words to interest me in almost any story idea were “I think we need a verse opener.” Frankly, the fact that “trolls” rhymes with “gnolls” had been striking me as some kind of missed opportunity for years.

Early on, we considered saying that the gnolls were borrowing Axemas traditions from the humans, or vice versa, but I think I like the ambiguity here better. One thing you learn quickly as a writer is that people often come up with good ideas independently of each other. “The days are as short as they’ll ever get, let’s celebrate” is, I think, an impulse common to sentient biology.

The awkwardness of celebrating Christmas with your Jewish friends can be real sometimes, but I generally got gifts for them and asked them to understand it was part of my culture and I expected nothing back. A giving day is not something to view in narrowly transactional terms! None of them felt awkward about it (and it wasn’t like I was buying them yachts or anything), but if they had, I would’ve said, “Hey, just get me something nice for my birthday.” And my birthday’s in October, plenty of time after Christmas for me to forget what I got anyone anyway.