Hooray for the Scarlet, White, and Blue (Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every second Friday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Hooray for the Scarlet, White, and Blue’!”


[The curtain rises on a backdrop showing the spires of Avalon Faire’s castle through the prop trees of “Little Sherwood”. Allyn-a-Dale enters and crosses to the center from stage left, Will Scarlet from stage right, both in their typical Faire garb.]

Will: Ah, Allyn! I was just coming to find you.

Allyn: And found me you have, on the way to my tent.

Will: Your tent? You can’t go in there – not today, of all days. It’s the 4th of July!

Allyn: Should that date mean something to me?

Will [scoffs like “duh” ]: Only if you’re going to call yourself an American.

Allyn: Which no one in Avalon is.

Will: Even so, this is a very important holiday. It all started centuries ago at midnight, when Paul Revere rode through the colonial American towns, shouting—

[Enter Marion Hood. Tricorn hat upon her head, stick horse firmly in hand, she gallops across the stage.]

Marion/Paul Revere: The British are coming! In stylish red coats! One if by land, two if by sea! TO ARMS, AMERICA!

[Exit Marion.]

Allyn [blinking at Will ]: I don’t get it.

Will: Oh, it was all to do with the Boston Tea Party.

[The largest of the prop trees rotates, revealing Robin Hood and Little John in its hollow, sporting waistcoats and powdered wigs, seated at a small table set with a fine china tea service.]

Little John [in an exaggerated British accent ]: More tea, Mr. Jefferson? I can offer you sugar and cream, as well, though sadly, representation along with your taxation is right out.

Robin/Jefferson: That’s outrageous! [throws down napkin ] As a patriot, I won’t stand for it! This means WAR!

[The tree revolves back into its original position.]

Will: After that, it was all kinds of revolution up in the streets – from Washington crossing the Delaware, to Ben Franklin flying kites in a storm, to a mysterious hooded man robbing the king’s men on the forest highway.

Allyn [eyelids lowered to sardonic height ]: You don’t say.

Will: True story. But in the end, the states united and came out on top, to much celebratory fireworks and barbecue.

Allyn: A fascinating history, Will. But I don’t see how any of this bars me from entering my tent.

Will: Erm, mostly because it kind of caught fire when I went in to surprise you with an Independence Day bouquet of sparklers.

Allyn: What?!

[Marion gallops across the stage again.]

Marion/Paul Revere: Those darn red-loving Brits, I tell you!


“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience member Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘sparklers’ and ‘mysterious hooded man’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

One for the Logophiles

Quick word from our sponsor (…so, basically me):

Surrogate Sea 99 Cents

For a limited time, the Kindle e-book for “The Surrogate Sea” is on sale for $0.99!

That’s right, because I want to make it easier on everyone to get all caught up on their Wilderhark Tales before Book 6.5 launches on July 7th (though it’s totally already available to order here, here, and here), Book Six can be on your e-reader for just 99 cents. Run, don’t walk! The deal only carries through Monday, July 6th. (Which, incidentally, is also the last day to enter my Goodreads giveaway for “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”.)

And speaking of “Surrogate Sea”… *segues into regularly scheduled blog post*


A short while back, I came across this BuzzFeed article full of “-phile” words (y’know, that suffix from the Greek, denoting the meaning “lover of”) quite fetchingly displayed on accompanying images.

Me being a logophile (i.e., a word lover – and heck yes, the BuzzFeed piece included that one), I naturally enjoyed scrolling through the article’s offerings. Me also being Danielle E. Shipley, the crazy cat character lady, I just as naturally thought about which of the words might apply to which people in my head. And once I started seeing them, I realized to my delight that connections to my most recently published Wilderhark Tale were everywhere!

So here now, for your visual and linguistic pleasure, are the words most befitting the cast of “The Surrogate Sea”!

Word Love, Thalassophile

With his passion for the Great Sea, “thalassaophile” most befits the Wind of South, Austeryn.

Word Love, Pluviophile

Of course, given that Austeryn is the Sky’s rain-bringer, the word “pluviophile” also applies.

While we’re on the topic of winds, behold those best suited to Aquinore, the chionophilic Wind of the North, and Euroval, ceraunophilic Wind of the East. Frigid cold and thunder/lightning storms, respectively, are what they love best of all.

Word Love, Chionophile

Word Love, Ceraunophile

Queen Laraspur and I share a trait in common: We are both selenophiles, infatuated with the magical Moon.

Word Love, Selenophile

The Moon himself, meanwhile, is the astrophilic keeper of the stars.

Word Love, Astrophile

But even more than moon- and starlight, Lumónd adores the night. Above all, the Moon is a nyctophile.

Word Love, Nyctophile

Unsurprisingly, this stands in stark contrast to his elder brother, for Raeóryn’s first love will ever be the light. The Sun = hardcore photophile.

Word Love, Photophile

Meanwhile, on the earth below, Ionquin Wyle reveals himself to have become deeply fond of passing time among the trees of Wilderhark Forest. Like me, then, the prince is a dendrophile.

Word Love, Dendrophile

And I couldn’t see this picture and not think of dear old Edgwyn Wyle. He’s been more or less a lifelong hippophile – as one might guess from his insistence on sharing his “Stone Kingdom” bookmark portrait with his horse. X)

Word Love, Hippophile

Surrogate Sea cover, front

For even more enchanting word pinups, check out the full BuzzFeed collection. And to be further enchanted by the newest Wilderhark Tale, make sure to get your paperbacks and/or 99-cent e-books of “The Surrogate Sea. Gotta be all caught up before Book 6.5 releases next week, right? ;D

Behind the Talette: “The Tipsilvren Witch”

It’s the last Monday of the month, meaning my Channillo series has grown by one Wilderhark Talette. ^o^

Subscribers to my Talettes so far may have come to expect another short story featuring my favorite fairytale tailor, Edgwyn Wyle. But not this time! These characters are all new, inspired by a story  you may have heard called “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.

I broke from the trees nearest the house, running as fast as my small legs could scamper. I’d gained the step when the door banged closed right into my nose, as if slammed from within. As I tumbled backward, the girl’s laugh trilled from behind me.

“Nice try, baby bear,” she teased. “No trespassing today. Be gone, shoo!”

I ran back to the trees and their shadows before she could wave that dreadful broom at me. Frightened I was, but angry, too. You’re a liar, my thoughts growled at her. One of us is a trespasser, and it’s not me!

— The Tipsilvren Witch

Like all Wilderhark spins on a tale, “The Tipsilvren Witch” departs a few paces from the Goldilocks account of our childhoods. Of course, a quick internet search of the story’s history reveals some major differences between even the version we’re familiar with and the original. Some fast ‘n’ furry facts, coming your way!

Arthur Rackham’s visual take on the legendary ursine trio.

Arthur Rackham’s visual take on the legendary ursine trio.

– In the story’s earliest known version, the intruder in the bears’ home was not a blonde girl-child, but – plot twist! – an old woman.

– Yet another early variation (which some theorize may even predate the old woman story) dispenses with human invasion entirely, and features a fox named Scrapefoot instead. (YEAH, foxes!)

– Robert Southey’s “Story of the Three Bears” gained popularity for the old lady narrative in 1837. A dozen years later, one Joseph Cundall – who reportedly said there were more than enough children’s stories with old biddies, thanks very much – retold it with a little girl named Silver Hair. (I guess in the character de-aging process, the hair is the last to revert to its youthful state?)

From Silver Hair to Silverlocks, to Golden Hair to Goldilocks. And now, latest of all, “the golden-haired girl” of the Tipsilvren Witch.

As it happens, I didn’t originally intend to set the story in the world of Wilderhark, when I wrote it a handful years ago. But when I recently realized that, with some very minor tweaks, it would fit in that world just fine, I knew right away which part of the Great Land it belonged in. Every kingdom has its legacy, after all. Denebdeor’s got its swans and stone curses, Carillon’s got its music… and when it comes to bear-related antics, it’s gotta be Tipsilvren.

So, for those of you who are up for a new take on an old classic – which I certainly hope you’ll find to be not too old-school, and not too wildly divergent, but just right ;D – make sure you’re subscribed to the Wilderhark Talettes on Channillo, and this story and more shall be yours, all yours!

Princess in the Sky with Gold (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Our author describes Bellamy, princess of Skycastle, thus:

In accordance with her royal parents’ oath, Bellamy has been groomed since her earliest youth to become her people’s savior, along with her twin sister. …until aforementioned sister disappears without notice. With the lives of her kingdom’s women on the line, Bellamy fiercely turns her back on what she views as her twin’s betrayal, the better to focus on her destiny ahead. But the monster she’s sworn to kill may be the least of what she’ll have to face.

“Welcome, Bellamy!” Will greets the young woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – who do you think makes the prettier girl: You, or your new crossdressing co-assassin?”

She gives him a look cold and flat as an artic plain. “Why on high is that ‘first things first’?”

Will shrugs. “I usually open the interview with a completely superficial question like that. It makes for a fun icebreaker.” Under the weight of her glare, he mutters, “Though it looks like the ice is on me, this time around.”

“It’s a frivolous practice,” says Bellamy, “but as I’m not in the habit of bucking established tradition, I would answer if I could. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen my face in the past eight years, so I can’t very well compare myself to Rowan – or Rowena, as he’s called in his work clothes.”

Will gapes. “Not seen your face once in eight years? What, are mirrors not a thing in your kingdom?”

Bellamy’s posture stiffens. “Skycastle has no shortage of mirrors – those left by its former occupant, and those brought by our people when they emigrated from the world below. I choose to avoid my reflection, that’s all. For personal reasons.”

“Personal reasons to do with your missing sister?” Will hints.

“I’d really much prefer not to talk about her.”

“I figured as much,” Will sighs. “Well, then, let’s talk about Skycastle. How did your people convert a giant’s castle in the sky into a human kingdom?”

Bellamy visibly relaxes somewhat. “It took some ingenuity. Space, the castle had aplenty, but much of it was difficult to access, due to the scale. So over the first year, the best of our architects and engineers led in building upward along the walls. Our population is small enough and the castle tall enough that there’s plenty of room on the main floor to house all of our kingdom-city’s districts – from the affluent top tiers, to what we call ‘the Ground’ (which is as near as Skycastle comes to a slum and is, if I rightly recall, where the royal guards found Rowan). Twenty years later, we’ve yet to fully explore the second story, to say nothing of what’s beyond. Oh, and thanks to the late giant’s collection of the stuff, gold’s more common than dirt in our castle on a cloud.”

“Wow. How fantastic is that? On a more personal note – but not too personal for you, I hope – what are your plans for once you and Rowan/Rowena have taken out your kingdom’s archenemy, the Lord of Wings?”

“I haven’t thought about it much,” Bellamy says contemplatively. “My life’s focus has been to kill our giant’s brother, if it’s the last thing I do – which there’s always a chance it will be. If I survive my mission’s completion… well, I suppose it will be back to Skycastle to learn how to run a kingdom. I am, so far as we know, the throne’s only surviving heir.”

“A real ‘all work and no play’ type, aren’t you?” says Will. “Well, let’s see if you’re at least game for this. Tell me, Bellamy, what is our mutual author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He offers a sunshiny smile. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Bellamy’s mouth twists downward. “I don’t feel right telling secrets not my own. I suppose that makes my duty clear.”

With an air of resignation, the princess rises from her chair, takes Will’s hand in hers, and brushes a kiss over his knuckles.

“My! How… gallant,” he says, rather pleased at the gender role reversal. “Allyn, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Danielle E. Shipley’s short story in the “Steel and Bone” steampunk anthology – launching tomorrow! – ‘A Mind Prone to Wander’.

Steel and Bone, cover 3.0

The refugees of Skycastle survived the end of the world only to fall prey to the dreaded Lord of Wings. Together with an assassin princess, a young man gone mad with missing memories must venture into the monster’s mechanized fortress to vanquish him once and for all. But the threat against Skycastle takes a most unexpected shape, forcing both princess and madman to brave the pain of the pasts that left them broken.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you as well, Your Highness. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

The Strange Island of… (STEEL & BONE Blog Tour)

Mere days from its official release on Saturday, the blog tour for Xchyler Publishing’s “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures is already underway!

Steel and Bone, cover and blurb

Behind every story in this collection was the prompt/theme/inspiration, “The Strange Island of…” That, combined with a story I’d been carrying around inside me for years but just couldn’t figure out how to get down on paper, resulted in my first-ever steampunk fairytale, “A Mind Prone to Wander”.

We’ll get to go into more detail about my story on Friday, when one of the main cast sits down for a Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell character interview. (Stay tuned.) But for now, pull out your dapper fob watches, because it’s time for my 5-Second Impressions! …or however many clockwork ticks it takes to read five words – no more, no less – on the other eight stories in the anthology.

Steel and Bone, my review

The Clockwork Seer” by Katherine Cowley =

An inventive, senses-bending vignette.

Sindisiwe” by Scott E. Tarbet =

Cinderella retelling? I’m for that!

Stand and Deliver” by TC Phillips =

Loved the humor. Particularly Mathew’s.

Island Walker” by C. R. Simper =

Engaging characters, and ooh, shipwrecks!

Curio Cay” by Sarah E. Seeley =

Dinosaurs least monstrous island inhabitants!

The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison” by Kin Law =

Lol, MC is AU me.

Revolutionary” by John M. Olson =

Shady stuff, Captain! Run now!

The Steel Inside” by Gail B. Williams =

Secrets. Suspense. A top story.

How ‘bout that lineup, guys? ^o^

How ‘bout that lineup, guys? ^o^

Steel and Bone, available on Amazon

If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to get in your pre-order of the “Steel & Bone” Kindle e-book today, and/or spring for the paperback on Saturday (Book Bomb day!), that these stories may be yours to read and treasure. And that could be the least of the goodies you get if you enter the tour-wide “Steel & Bone” Rafflecopter giveaway!

Steel and Bone, prizes

We’re talking free e-books (including my soon-to-launch addition to the Wilderhark Tales, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”!), t-shirts, keychains… swag for days, people. For days. So come one, come all, come win stuff. I hope to see you around on the tour, at the Book Bomb, and/or below in the comments.

Which strange steampunk island of steel and bone are you most excited to explore?

Based Upon the Bard (“Never Be Younger” Blog Tour)


But soft! What post through yonder blog doth break? It is a tour! And… and okay, I’m not actually Shakespeare. But this book’s got his influence all over it. Read on!


Written by nine authors, Never Be Younger is a Young Adult collection of Shakespeare retellings. From Othello to Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet to The Winter’s Tale, each story has been crafted with a new spin.

nbyFrom the halls of a high school to hip night clubs to the depths of space, Never Be Younger gives Shakespeare’s classic plays and sonnets a fresh spin for a new audience. Nine authors pay tribute to the Bard by taking his timeless tales to new heights, entrancing readers all over again. A Shakespeare story by any other name still reads as sweet.

All proceeds from the sales of Never Be Younger go to United Through Reading, a charity dedicated to uniting military families through reading. Check out the bottom of the post for how you can win great prizes to celebrate the release!



Buy now on Amazon and Kobo for only $0.99US


My review (having received an ARC, dontcha know):

A fun, varied collection, spinning classic Shakespeare storylines into all new contexts. As is generally the case with anthologies, some of the stories left me wanting, while others had me smiling inside and out. The authors of “Never Be Younger” strike me as a clever, imaginative bunch, with much to offer Shakespeare lovers and young adult/new adult readers alike. Definitely worth the read!

Notes from the trenches (i.e., what I scribbled to myself during the reading of each story so I could keep my impressions straight for the writing of the review above):

Star Cross Lovers (S.M. Johnston, E.L. Wicker) = Moves fast; dramatic (that’s Romeo and Juliet, for you), but a fun sci-fi take on the plot; will they or won’t they [die]?

The Scarf (Christina June) = Readers familiar with “Othello” will see to the heart of the conflict from the start, but will the players up to their necks in high school politics realize the truth before it’s too late? Suspeeeense.

A Day of Errors (Jessica L Pierce) = Okay, I am laughing out loud. XD That was great.

Any Way the Wind Blows (Nicole Zoltack) = Felt less credible to me as the story went on.

To Undreamed Shores (Cortney Pearson) = Meh. Sappy romance; not altogether unpleasant, but still. And the “surprise” felt a bit tacked-on; like, oh, by the way, this.

A Witch’s Life (Adrianne James) = Interesting, but the last act felt hasty/abrupt.

Mark the Music (Olivia Hinebaugh) = Ah, some dude [POV] voice mixing it up. Not that Star Cross Lovers and Day of Errors didn’t give a taste of that, but this is… rougher-edged. Not my comfort zone, but kept me invested.

A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare (S.M. Johnston, E.L. Wicker) = Mutant teens hiding out among regular high schoolers? Keep going…! Mm, overall impression at the end, fluffy plot with overwrought prose; didn’t leave me satisfied.


About the Authors

Rachel Bateman: Editor

rachelRachel Bateman is a writer and editor who spends too much time thinking she can out bake the Cake Boss. (Spoiler: She can’t.) She lives in the middle of Montana, but dreams of the South. Rachel is the owner of Metamorphosis Books, an author services company offering formatting and interior layout for independent authors. When not writing, editing, or reading books, she can be found playing with her husband, young son, and small zoo of pets. You can find Rachel on Twitter, and her website.

S.M. Johnston: Star Crossed Lovers & A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare

sharonS.M. Johnston is a writer of weird fiction and soulful contemporaries from sunny Queensland, Australia. Her family includes a husband, two sons and a number of fur babies of the feline and cavy variety. You can find Sharon on Twitter, and her website.

Jessica L Pierce: A Day of Errors

jessicaJessica is a somewhat crazy – yet loving – blond. She lives in Green Bay, WI, hates the cold, and loves her completely awesome camo coat. She is passionate about football, baseball, photography and writing, and won’t go near cooked peas. (Raw peapods are fine.)

She is a student at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, and will graduate in December 2015 with a degree in Communication with emphasis in Journalism. She is a sports photographer and her work can be found at: http://www.studio52photos.com You can also find Jessica on Twitter.

Cortney Pearson: The Undreamed Shores

CORTNEYCortney Pearson is the author of Phobic and Such a Secret Place, a mother, musician, and a lover of pink and sparkles. You can find Cortney on Twitter, and her website.

E.L. Wicker: Star Crossed Lovers & A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare

EmE.L. Wicker lives in Hampshire, England with her husband and two children. Fueled by the bossy voices in her head, she writes New Adult fiction with a side of romance. You can find E.L. on Twitter, and her website.

Nicole Zoltack: Any Way the Wind Blows

NICOLENicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially romance, whether fantasy, paranromal, or regency. When she’s not writing about knights, superheroes or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic young boys, with another little one on the way. She enjoyes horse riding (pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dressed in garb. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on. Her current favorite TV show is The Walking Dead. You can find Nicole on Twitter, and her website.

Olivia Hinebaugh: Mark The Music

oliviaOlivia Hinebaugh spends her free time writing. Obviously. The rest of her time is spent playing and reading with her two young children. She also loves: watching Sia’s music videos, quoting Mean Girls, and folding laundry. She actually really does. You can find Olivia on Twitter, and her website.

Adrianne James: A Witch’s Life

adrianneGrowing up Adrianne James couldn’t get her hands on enough books to satisfy her need for the make believe. If she finished a novel and didn’t have a new one ready and waiting for her, she began to create her own tales of magic and wonder. Now, as an adult, books still make up the majority of her free time, and now her tales get written down to be shared with the world.

During the day, Adrianne uses her camera to capture life’s stories for clients of all ages and at night, after her two children are tucked up in bed; she devotes herself to her written work. Adrianne is living the life she always wanted, surrounded by art and beauty, the written word and a loving family.

As a New Adult Paranormal (and sometimes contemporary) author, Adrianne James writes strong women, powerful magic, and love that lasts a lifetime. You can find Adrianne on Twitter, and her website.

Christina June: The Scarf

christinaChristina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and the world’s most rambunctious four-year-old. You can find Christina on Twitter, and her website.

In honor of “Never Be Younger”s release = a Rafflecopter giveaway

Different Strokes (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Author Mere Joyce describes Maddie Deacon thus:

A 16-year-old former artist who is now unable to participate in her craft due to the memories of being held captive by a painting madman. She used to be a very confident, passionate girl, but now she’s more reserved and sullen.

“Huh,” says Will, reflectively. “That sounds… Allyn, you want to take this one?”

Allyn’s head snaps up. “What?”

Will pops up to his feet. “Traumatized artist. That’s right up your alley. Here, we’ll switch. Take my place.”

“I… are you serious?” Allyn whispers.

“Dead,” Will confirms, hustling Allyn into the host seat.

“Um. Well. Hello,” a dazed Allyn addresses the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “Welcome, Maddie. First things first, I suppose: Are you okay with,” – he gestures between himself and Will Scarlet, now off-camera – “all this?”

“Um…I-I guess.” *Glances off-stage to where her little sister and a boy her own age give her encouraging smiles, clearly suggesting they forced her into this* “I d-didn’t have much of a choice.”

“I know the feeling,” Allyn mutters. Redirecting his focus back Maddie’s may, his tone gentles. “Before we address the darkness you’ve dealt with, would you share one of your brightest memories from your days of freedom?”

*Jerks thumb at aforementioned boy* “Painting Wesley. H-he’s my…well, he used to be…my best friend. And once, I got to p-paint him. At night, outside, with his cello. The portrait turned out well. I-I even showcased it. At our school’s Art Showcase. It was…it was the piece I showed the night I was abducted.”

“Ah.” Allyn winces sympathetically. “Well, we’ll call that our segue and move on to more difficult matters. During your close to three years of captivity, to whom – apart from yourself and your captor – did your thoughts most often turn, and why?”

“Mostly, I thought about my parents, my sister Autumn, and Wesley. B-But I think I thought of my sister most of all. She’s thirteen now, the age I was when I was t-taken. In all my time away, the one thing I was g-grateful for was that it was me locked up, not her. She’s got an amazing spirit, and she’s just so…alive. I n-never want anything to change that.”

“Quite so,” Allyn nods as a great deal of wet sniffling sounds from off-camera. “Erm, don’t mind Will. He suffers from a tender heart, poor man. And while we’re yet on the subject of suffering: What is it that you miss the most about your art?”

“The rightness of it, if that makes any sense. Painting was once a n-need for me, and s-sometimes I think it still could be. When I find a subject I think I’d like to paint, my fingers itch, and my b-brain starts forming the picture whether I-I want it to or not. It’s like every nerve in my body is on edge, and…and the tension’s not released until the painting begins. It’s h-hard, not being able to l-let it t-take hold. It’s hard not being able to g-give in.”

“So I’d imagine,” says Allyn, his fingers twitching as if plucking invisible lute strings. “Suppose, for a moment, that I am you, at age thirteen. What would you most like to say to me?”

“Well, f-first I would tell you not to wear headphones when you’re walking alone at night. But, then I’d tell you to stop putting off the things you keep planning to someday accomplish. P-portraits you’ve promised to paint, p-people you’ve been meaning to spend more time with. There’s always a theoretical tomorrow, b-but not always an actual one. Do things now, not later. Do them while they’re still easy to d-do.”

“I love you, Allyn!” Will is heard to wail while he has the chance.

Allyn grimaces. “Yes, I know. And I you. But do try to keep it together for just a short moment more. I’ve the last question to go. Tell me, Maddie, what is your author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He glances over his shoulder. “Or would you rather kiss the Scarlet wreck?”

*Glances at Will*

*Glances at Wesley*

“Um…I’ll stick with the s-secret. Well, actually, it’s s-sort of a secret, and s-sort of a proud moment in her life (depends on who is asking), but M-Mere permanently damaged her tailbone, and p-possibly broke it, while dancing to the Backstreet Boys…I-I don’t know how, but she claims it’s the fault of a music video? One where they’re d-dancing in a h-haunted castle or something? S-Sounds made up to me.” *Looks skeptically at Mere*

“‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’!?” Will shouts, an emotional one-eighty rocketing him back into high spirits. “ALL RIGHT!”

Backstreet's Back gif

“Ahem,” Allyn coughs. “The word from our sponsor, please?”

“Right, that! Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Will, “was brought to you by Mere Joyce’s young-adult novel releasing this very day, ‘Blank Canvas’ .

Blank Canvas

Three years ago, sixteen-year-old Maddie Deacon was abducted on her way home from her school’s Art Showcase. Five months ago, she escaped the madman she calls The Painter. Before being taken, painting was Maddie’s life. Now, it’s her nightmare.

Maddie wants to forget her years in captivity. She’d rather spend her time getting reacquainted with her parents and her sister, not to mention her cello-playing, beautiful boy next door and childhood best friend Wesley. But paint is everywhere, and tormenting shadows linger in every portrait she encounters.

When the yearly Art Showcase once again approaches, Maddie has the chance to win a scholarship and start planning a future far away from the horrors of her past. She knows she has to make a choice–confront her memories of The Painter and overcome her fear of the canvas, or give up painting forever.

“Thanks, Allyn, for playing host for a day,” says Will. “Thanks to you as well, Maddie. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”


Release Day Bonus: An excerpt from “Blank Canvas” by Mere Joyce!

“Hello, Maddie,” Tim says, taking a sip from his Healing Expressions coffee cup. I’m glad he and Juliet call me Maddie instead of Madison, like Klara does. I’ve gone by Maddie since my days in preschool, and being called it here makes the office seem slightly less institutional.

Of course, it doesn’t make this moment any less awful.

“H-hi,” I stammer, my voice thin. My feet ache as I force them across the threshold. Tim prefers it if I close the door behind me, but I need to see my escape route. Shakily, I cross the room and sit on the bench along the wall of windows that look down over the parking lot. The cushions are soft, bright orange, and there are pink and green and blue throw pillows scattered along the seat. I grab the blue one, and hug it to my chest as I stare at the world on the free side of the glass panes.

It’s a strange sensation, watching the world like this. In elementary school, at recess, I would sit by the fences backing the neighborhood houses. With my head tilted into the cool fall or warm spring breeze, I would close my eyes and picture the people in those houses, people not working, people working from home, people driving the streets or watering their lawns or relaxing in front of the TV, while I remained stuck at school for another several hours. I have the same thoughts now as I gaze over the parking lot, far out to the park, the townhouse complex, and the streets beyond. So many people sleeping, reading, shopping––all while I’m here, trapped behind a wall of glass.

It helps to keep my back to the easel. Slowly, the panic of my arrival subsides, and I take full gulping breaths until I’ve settled into muted unease.

“How are you feeling today, Maddie?” Tim asks. He remains seated. I get antsy if his six-foot-three inch body looms over me.

“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m never fine. Not anymore. But declaring it is like stating the obvious.

“How’s school?” I can hear a smile in his voice. I like Tim’s voice, with its deep, quietly enthusiastic tone. I’m fairly certain I like Tim, too. Or, at least, I would, if the circumstances were different. If he didn’t have the task of prying, of guiding me into frigid, infested waters every time we meet.

“It’s fine,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.

Tim’s chair scrapes across the floor as he stands. I keep my eyes fixed on the parking lot outside. I’ve found Wesley’s tiny van, and I watch it intently.

Tim approaches, sits on the bench a ways off. “Did you read any papers this week?”

“No.” The tension I nearly shed on the ride over here is creeping back again. I hate therapy. I don’t understand how digging into every unpleasant crevice of my subconscious is supposed to make my life easier.

“How about the news? Did you watch any?” Tim asks, even though I’m already shaking my head.

“Y-You know I didn’t,” I reply, and Tim breathes out, the resulting sound just short of a sigh.

“How many times have you had to avoid his picture?” he asks, and I squeeze the pillow until my fingers are white.

“S-Seventy … S-Seventy-two,” I choke out.

It’s become a habit keeping track of the number of times I stop myself from seeing him. When I go to the drugstore and see the papers lined in a hideous row. When the news comes on, and reporters rehash what happened. In the beginning, it was far harder. There were articles all over, news stories, constant threats to my sanity. Five months on, most of my count comes from the personal attacks, the times I remember something, imagine something, and his face almost manages to push its way in.

“Good. An improvement on last week,” Tim says, the pleasing smoothness of his voice giving the achievement a more respectable air than it deserves. Last week there were seventy-eight occurrences. Having six fewer episodes means nothing, except Tim is trying to be as positive as possible.

Plus, there’s the phone call to consider. Last week might have been an improvement, but I’m certain my methods of diversion will fail to keep me from replaying the conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear this morning.

Mere Joyce

About the Author:

Mere Joyce lives in Ontario, Canada. As both a writer and a librarian, she understands the importance of reading, and the impact the right story can have. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario.

When she’s not writing, reading, or recommending books, Mere likes to watch movies with her husband (she may be slightly obsessed with Alan Rickman), play games with her son, go for walks with her dog, and drink lots of earl grey tea with orange chocolate on the side.

Find Mere here: Blog / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest