Scarlet’s Swan Song

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

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

“Every Saturday,” 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. Now…” Allyn turns to Will, eyes narrowed. “Why is today’s skit ‘a very special ’ one?”

“Because,” says Will, “today marks the 1-year anniversary of Danielle’s Wilderhark Tales debut, ‘The Swan Prince’!”

Allyn glances at the calendar. “Ah, so it is! Mercy, how recent and long ago that launch date seems. How are we marking the occasion?”

“I was thinking…” Will spreads his hands before him. “‘Swan Prince: The Musical’!”

Allyn’s expression slackens. “Wait, what?”

***Disclaimer: The following song number is the product of Will Scarlet and is in no way affiliated with Allyn-a-Dale, Gant-o’-the-Lute, or any credentialed minstrel to speak of. All character entities featured are intellectual property of Danielle E. Shipley, author of “The Swan Prince (Book One of the Wilderhark Tales)”, and are performing of their own volition.***


Book Banner, Swan Prince

[The curtain rises, along with a lively overture from the orchestra, on a backdrop depicting the foliage of Wilderhark Forest. Villem Deere stands stage left, Sula stage right, a pair of prop trees between and a bit behind them. ]

Villem: My knowledge base is a showcase of information diversity.

Aced every last final at my doctor university.

Yet there’s one thing I do not, and simply must, know:

What’s with that Sula girl, yo?

[Sula wrinkles her nose, because for no reason beyond a Will Scarlet script would Villem ever say “yo”, but regardless, she sings on her cue, her gaze following Sigmund as he enters the stage and crosses to disappear behind a tree.]

Sula: Neither spring-loaded steel nor that Doctor Deere can break me.

I’ll keep the whole world at arm’s length for everybody’s safety.

But that Sigmund boy’s drawn me since my first entranced stare.

To ignore him’s more than I can bear.

[Now she rolls her eyes, because bear puns? Really? Meantime, the music swells fuller, intensifying in tone, while a swan’s shadow glides over the backdrop.]

Swan Prince Cover, E-book

Villem: Wondering…

Sula: Wandering…

Both: By moonlight.

Villem: What answers…

Sula: What freedom…

Both: Will come with the sunrise?

Obsession, distraction, and grudging attraction in Wilderhark.

When will what’s in the dark come to light?

[The lights on Villem and Sula darken, while a new spotlight shines center stage between the trees, rippling silver like moonlight on water. From his huddled position in the light’s center, Sigmund draws gracefully up to his feet, spreading vast sleeves designed to look like gray-feathered wings. The music slows and quiets to little more than a plaintive oboe.]

Sigmund: Once upon a time, my life looked sublime.

A prince among worse, ‘til a curse brought me low.

Bound now to a lake and this Sula girl’s fate,

Will my tale end in rapture or woe?

[Music builds again for the return of the chorus. Villem, Sula, and Sigmund sing in three-part harmony, as the stage’s lighting shifts moment by moment from night-dim to a glow like the dawn.]

All: Wondering, wandering, by moonlight.

What changes, what choices, will come with the sunrise?

A search for what’s hiding and lost deep inside of great Wilderhark.

When will what’s wrong be made right?

When what’s in the dark comes to liiight!

[Triumphant orchestral finish.]


“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Kim Matura,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘university finals’ and ‘sublime’. Thanks also to the main cast from ‘The Swan Prince’ for being such good sports about this. I’d no idea you all had such tuneful voices!”

“And the song?” Will prompts.

“…Could have been worse,” Allyn says grudgingly. “Far better, but also worse.”

“Thank you very much. If you enjoyed yourselves, dear audience,” 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! And if you haven’t yet, consider celebrating the original Wilderhark Tale’s first full year out in the world by purchasing a copy today – through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace…whatever floats your boat – or recommending it to a friend. Until next week: Will and Allyn out!”

“Artist” or “Introducing Wilderhark’s Shapes-and-Colorsmith”

Those of you who have received Seven Swans a-Winning prizes from me (which I think is all or most of those who should have, right? I’ve seen some happy photos via Facebook and Twitter ^-^) may have noticed the gorgeous set of bookmarks that came with your goodies. Certainly, you’ve all seen the beautiful cover of “The Swan Prince (Book One of The Wilderhark Tales”, right?

Well, the same talented “one who practices an art; especially, one who creates objects of beauty” is behind all of the above. I came across her lovely gallery on DeviantArt (feast your eyes!), messaged her a pitch about creating my “Wilderhark Tales” art, crossed my fingers and mumbled prayers. Receiving her “yes” was almost as exciting as a contract offer from a publisher (which, thanks to J. Taylor Publishing, is a feeling I’ve come to know). Gazing at the work she’s done for me never fails to put a smile in my heart. And today, I am sooooo happy to present to you… an interview with Yana Naumova!

Yana ID

Me: Introduce yourself to the readers, if you please!

Yana: Hello! My name is Yana Naumova, I’m 25, and I live in the beautiful city of Samara in Russia.

Me: When did you decide you wanted to create art professionally, and how did you get started?

Yana: I was very fond of painting since childhood, and I devoted all my free time to this occupation. I’ve always had a lot of albums and notebooks completely filled with various drawings. I imagined drawing whole books with fantastic stories that consist only of pictures. My parents always encouraged my interest in creativity; they often drew and sculpted with me in the evenings. My father told me various stories about the artists and about the time he went to art school. I think it had a great influence on who I am now.

At the age of ten, my parents sent me to a children’s art school. There I learned the basics of drawing and got an idea what I would be faced with if I chose the artist’s profession. I caught a good teacher who encouraged pupils to experiment. At 16, I entered the Pedagogical University to the fine arts. Getting an art education has become for me a solid foundation in my artistic development, and prepared me to move on to independence.

Me: What is your creative process like?

Yana: My creative process from the external point of view is quite simple – I just sit and draw something, sometimes at my working place, sometimes on my bed. From inside it resembles dreams – I’m trying to grasp suitable forms and lines, to determine the color, to convey feelings and mood, as if you create or unravel the mystery of a series of characters/symbols.

Me: What are your favorite subjects to paint/draw, and why?

Yana: I love to experiment with methods and techniques of drawing, but most of all I like to paint landscapes and fairy scenes; I like to create illustrations for the stories. This process fascinates me!

Me: How would you describe your style?

Yana: This is a hard question. I can only identify the main lines of my work, which were formed under the influence of Art Nouveau and symbolism.

Doctor Villem Deere, Sula, and Sigmund, in a triptych of bookmark glory.
Doctor Villem Deere, Sula, and Sigmund, in a triptych of bookmark glory.

Me: ( It was her work’s Art Nouveau-esque qualities that first caught my eye. It’s just what I wanted for depicting Wilderhark!) What has it been like collaborating with me on the “Wilderhark Tales” project? (*sweats bullets awaiting my performance review*)

Yana: Taking part in this project was fun and easy for me. I was really inspired by the characters and story, and we’ve got comfortable and fascinating discussion of the characters. You have created the most favorable conditions for my creative work, and your comments and remarks were very appropriate.

Me: (Hooray! I’m so pleased to hear it. ^-^) Which of the “Swan Prince” characters did you most enjoy bringing to visual life?

Yana: I can’t choose, I think that I loved to draw them all 🙂 I liked to draw Doctor Deere’s face, trying to express his thoughtfulness and calmness. It was fun to work with ‘plumpness’ of characters; at first I somewhat succumbed to the stereotype that all fantasy characters should be skinny and starving 😉 It was quite refreshing to look at corrected/finished picture of Sula.

(MeSula may or may not take that as a compliment. XD But I certainly do!)

Y: One more thing – some days after I drew Sigmund, I entered your gallery and was amused that one of his pictures resembled my work a lot (his pose and appearance). I’m sure that I didn’t see this work before.

Me: (I was tickled by the similarities, too! Click here to compare for yourselfif you like, readers. It’s such a joy to have my characters’ selves shine through in the work of another artist – especially an artist with so much more skill than I’ve got!)

Thank you so much for agreeing to let my readers meet you, Yana! (Double brownie points for answering all my nosy questions in a secondary language; her mad skillz trump mine again, folks!) And while I’ve already thanked you a hundred times for your Wilderhark drawings, prepare to be thanked a hundred times more, from me and my outstandingly-rendered characters, too! After all, we’ve still got five more novellas to go… (:

“Sample” or “A Girl in the Woods”

Not even a dozen days left until the release of my fairytale novella, “The Swan Prince (Book One of the Wilderhark Tales)”!

Wait, what?? *double-checks calendar* Holy smokes, it’s true.


I can’t tell if this feeling is panic or just wanting so bad for you to read this book that I’m fit to bust. How to tell the difference?

The only swarms I like to think about are readers swarming Amazon to buy my book on launch day.
The only swarms I like to think about are readers swarming Amazon to buy my book on launch day.

Well, let’s try an experiment: I’ll let you all read a “small part of [The Swan Prince], intended to show the quality, style, or nature of the whole”, and we’ll see if the sharing of this piece of the book’s early pages helps to lessen the monarch butterfly migration passing through my midsection.

Ugh! Swarming insects! Why did I choose that analogy?! This sample chapter will now serve a twofold purpose – a lovely “Swan Prince” appetizer for you, and a distraction from disturbing thoughts for me. Enjoy. (:

<> ~ <> ~ <>

~ A Girl in the Woods ~


Doctor Villem Deere was not easily surprised.

It was not that he could be said to have “seen it all”; he had only lived a little more than twenty years of life, and had spent much of that time seeing the same few things many times over. And it wasn’t that he had a particularly outrageous imagination. Rather, he was open-minded enough that he could accept almost any circumstance as being a perfectly probable one, and if it was only likely that something would happen, it would be foolish to be surprised when it did.

So when – one autumn morning, not long past dawn – his door was thrown open by a panicked young nun, Doctor Deere took it entirely in stride.

“What’s the matter, Sister?” he asked with efficient calm, already reaching for his medical bag and shrugging into his favorite twill jacket. “An illness at the asylum?”

“A girl in the woods!” gasped the nun – Sister Ariana, by name. “Her leg’s caught in one of those ghastly steel traps meant for things like bears and wolves and mountain lions and— well, never mind! The point is, it’s trapped a girl! Please, Villem, come quickly!”

The supplies of his profession in hand, the fair physician followed his dark-haired friend out of the quiet village of Wilderhark and into the vast forest that bore the same name, working to make sense of Sister Ariana’s disjointed explanations all the while.

“I was taking my daily constitutional, the same as I’ve always done – for the past four years, anyway – or has it only been three? Well, never mind, that’s hardly the point: The point is that it wasn’t the same as I’ve always done.

“Normally, I circumvent the woods, but I didn’t today, because I heard this terrible, tortured sound coming from inside them! I can’t really put a name to it or describe it and I very much hope I’ll never be able to reproduce it because I just knew that such a sound could only be the result of overpowering agony!

“And I hadn’t even gotten over the shock of the first noise before there was a second one; what sounded like ragged, tearful breaths. I followed them to their source, and— ah! There she is!”

As one might reasonably suppose, the girl with her leg clamped tight in a steel trap had not gone anywhere.

In the ungainly-looking girl’s childish face, Villem observed the signs of physical distress one would expect to see in the expression of one in her situation. But what he had also expected to see, and yet did not see, was relief; relief that salvation had arrived, that she would soon be liberated from her entrapment. Instead, Villem saw no small amount of fear in her hard, staring eyes, as if the girl viewed him not as a source of deliverance, but as just another threat. He sought to reassure her.

“It’s all right,” he said soothingly. “I’m Doctor Deere, and I’m here to help you. Can you tell me your name?”

The girl’s voice was shaky, but she managed an answer. “Sula.”

“All right, Sula. Now, how did this unfortunate accident happen?”

Assuming that it was an accident, Villem thought. It most likely was, but you never could tell what some people might do to each other; it was a mad world, and everything was probable.

“I was… running,” Sula said tentatively. “It was dark. I didn’t see the trap until too late.”

“What were you running from?”

“I—” Sula began, hesitated, and began again. “I was running from a bear.”

“A bear.”

“Yes.” Sula nodded several times. “I mean, I thought there was a bear. Maybe there wasn’t, but I thought I had better run, in case there was.”

“I might have known there was a bear involved!” Sister Ariana cried. “I’ve heard of more than a dozen reported bear sightings in this area since this past spring alone. It was very foolish of you, dear,” she chided the girl, “to go into these woods at night; that’s when these local bears tend to be most active, I’m told. Your parents ought to have known better than to let you— Where are your parents, by the way?”

Sula’s answer was near inaudible. “I don’t have any.”

“Oh, you poor thing, how terrible! Well, never mind – I have just the place for you to stay. Would it be safe to move her there right away, Doctor, or will she need special care elsewhere?”

“Oh, she’s quite fit to be moved,” Villem replied, finishing his careful inspection of the girl’s entrapped leg. “You’ve been very fortunate, Sula: Somehow, your bone has withstood any breakage. How old are you, seventeen?”


“Remarkable,” Villem murmured. That a girl of sixteen should have fared so well when a grown man’s leg would almost surely have been snapped in two by such a powerful contraption…

Perhaps something is the matter with the trap’s springs, he reasoned. He would have to look into that later.

“So I can take her to the asylum now?” Sister Ariana asked.

“Once I’ve cleaned and bound her wound, yes.”

“Thank goodness. Now, don’t you fret, Sula,” she said, noting the panicked look that had reappeared in the girl’s gray-green eyes. “We’ll soon have you where you won’t have to worry about getting hurt by traps or bears anymore.”

If she was worried about bears to begin with, Villem thought.

It wasn’t that Sula’s story had been an improbable one; but for reasons he had yet to scrutinize to his scientific satisfaction, Doctor Villem Deere was unconvinced it was the whole one.

<> ~ <> ~ <>

To be continued… on May 31st!