Behind the Talette: Soul Shepherdess Part 2

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

Although – head’s up, gang – there’s a change of schedule coming up. Next month (hiiii, September – aka the start of Ever On Word’s 5th year, whaaaat?) will feature not one, but two new Talettes, on the 14th and the 28th. And October’s Talette will be coming atcha on the 12th (the day before the official launch of “The Story’s End”!). And after that… hiatus time.

“Wha-a-at??” say the masses.

Yes, the end of my current serially released short story will mark the beginning of a indefinite break for the Wilderhark Talettes.

It seemed a good time, coinciding as it does with the conclusion of the Wilderhark Tales proper, as well as my temporary abandonment of the U.S. for Europe. The winds of change, they are a’blowing (less threateningly than most of the winds of Welken, one can only hope), and I’m good ‘n’ ready to close the book on the Wilderhark world for a while.

But fret ye not! Though I won’t be adding any new Talettes past October, all the old ones will still be available for Channillo subscribers to access. And if Future Me ever gets inspired to throw some more Talettes your way, you can be sure I’ll let you in the know. ^_^

Now, then, on to today’s special treat, tied into the second chapter of “The Soul Shepherdess”.

When we last saw young Solwen – she who will go on to become the first woman minstrel in the Great Land, despite not a little discouragement along the way – she was searching out words and a melody to share the music of the world with her sister. She’s at it again today, and if anything, her new song is even prettier than the first.

Rather than attempt to pick out the accompaniment on my lute, I turned to my trusty music-makin’ computer program (a somewhat old-school version of this) – mostly because I’ll seize any excuse to throw in some cellos. Click the pic below for my humble rendition of Solwen’s ode to a winter morning, “Snowfall” (as shared on my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page).

Snowfall Still

For the story surrounding this song, make sure you’re subscribed to the Wilderhark Talettes! And do feel free to look around Channillo for other series that may catch your fancy; you’ll want something to keep you busy when the Talettes go on break, aye? ;D

How the Moon Turned Blue

You may or may not have noticed, but on the night of July 31st, we had ourselves a blue moon!

“A blue moon,” Ionquin repeated. “The second full moon in the same month?”

“Just so, Highness.”

— “The Sun’s Rival”

Sun's Rival Cover, front

And as I should very much hope my fans will have noticed, the concept of a blue moon played a vital part in Book Five of my Wilderhark Tales novellas. Although, as I observed in that selfsame book’s limited-edition, special prize of a character commentary…

Sadly, not even a Wilderhark blue moon is actually blue. *grumbles about disappointing misnomers*

“Why not?” Ionquin asks. “It’s your story. Your world. You could have made it blue.”

Could have, yes. But how would I justify it? Why should the moon’s light shine blue just because it’s the second full moon in a month? Just for coolness’ sake? That’s not Lumónd’s style. He’s not showy. Nor is he Gant-o’-the-Lute, whom I could totally see as a moon shining blue just because, 1) he could, and 2) blue.

“What about when the moon shines golden or red?” Laraspur asks. “What’s the reasoning behind that?”

Red could be him in a hideous temper over something. As for golden… perhaps he’s particularly pleased.

“So why not have him shine blue when he’s particularly sad?” says Ionquin.

Which just happens to be every time there’s a second full moon in a month?

“Maybe being full twice in a month makes him sad. Maybe he feels fat.”

Laraspur rolls her eyes. “Because goodness knows I shine blue whenever I feel fat. And anyway, the full of the month is when he’s at his most powerful. He’d hardly be at his saddest then.”

“Well then, maybe whenever he decides to don a particularly blue coat. You know the old saying, ‘The clothes make the moon.’”

“That saying is two seconds old and already past its prime.”

“Fine.” Ionquin throws up his hands in surrender. “No literally blue moons, sad but true.”

So glad I’ve got your consent.

All of which raises the question: Why in Wilderhark do they call it a “blue moon”??

In all honesty, until the recent night I went out to see our own world’s blue moon, I never wondered enough to figure it out. (How my brain manages to world-build at all is an utter mystery to me.) But once I did give the matter a few minutes’ concentrated thought – and a little light research led me to this possible reasoning behind our moon’s rare title of “blue” – the answer plunked into my lap like a fallen star.

First, some necessary backstory, as provided in a bit of Wilderhark flash fiction I wrote I-forget-how-long ago (and which almost made it into “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”, but then didn’t, ‘cause reasons). I may one day get around to sharing the full story, but for today’s purpose, all you need is the opening.

Once, not long after the world’s awakening, the Wind of the West asked a boon of the Moon.

“Your Majesty,” she said, with a bow that became a merry somersault ere its end. “The fruit of the steorrow trees in your grove enchant me. Might I have the pleasure of a single seed?”

In mild surprise, the night king of the Sky asked, “And what would a wind do with the seed of a star?”

“Why, plant it, of course,” the wind laughed, “and see what grows!”

The Moon knew the West Wind could mean no harm, for there was not a breath of malice in her essence. And so, as he had steorrow seeds to spare, he granted the gift, to the West Wind’s delight.

She promptly swallowed the diamond-like seed, planting it inside her own self; for so changeable was the form of a wind that it could spawn new life with any living thing. And in hardly any time at all, the West Wind bore her first child: A tree.

The silver sapling grew tall and translucent, like the Moon’s steorrows, and buds appeared all along its spreading branches. But instead of clusters of shining stars, the buds bloomed into flowers as sweet as their mother’s air. And from each blossom sprang a new creature, invisible to all eyes but a wind’s or the Moon’s.

To those few eyes that could see, the creatures were somewhat like in form to a being of Sky, but far smaller – tiny enough to fit in the palm of a hand, and slender as twigs. They flew as a wind flew, eyes shining like starlight, their voices like laughter, or air blowing through chimes.

“What are you, my little ones?” the West Wind asked her litter.

“We are the faer blewn,” they answered, the new name a breath as soft as a summer night breeze.

“And what does that mean?” she asked them.

They looked at one another and answered, “We’re not sure.”

So the wind went to the Moon for his insight on the matter; for, as the keeper of the steorrows and their fruit, he was likely to know better than she.

“They are star sprites,” he told her, upon hearing their name. “Givers of fortune.”

Our fortune?” the wind asked.

“Heavens, no,” said the Moon. “The fate of the Sky was set the day we rose. These sprites are lesser beings, their influence for beings even lesser than they. Their gift, I think,” he said, glancing downward toward the earth, “is for humanity.”

“How lovely!” said the wind, and blew kisses to all the tiny lives new born. “Then fly, little faery whatsits – do your work. And may the world for it better be!”

There. That Welken word: blewn.

I’m uncertain of the exact translation, but the Moon said it’s to do with fortune. And harken back to Book Five, where quoth a certain character, “I have also heard it said … that a night under the light of a blue moon will restore one afflicted with Moon Madness to their rightful senses.

A special moon said to cure Lunacy. I’d call that a fortunate thing, wouldn’t you? Enough so that the night Sky’s king might, in his native tongue, name his rare, healing second fullness in a month a “blewn Lumónd”. And somewhere along the line – the same somewhere in which that world’s humans developed the inaccurate habit of calling the heavens “sky” and the great forest “Wilderhark” – “blewn” came to be misspoken as a word more commonly understood by non-Welken speakers: “blue”.

Voila. One secret of the Moon down, while the rest of him remains the same beautiful enigma he’s ever been. ❤

#ISeeYou
#ISeeYou

The Beginning of the End

Story's End Cover Reveal Tease

Once upon a time not so very long gone, I began my self-publishing adventure with a walk beneath the boughs of an enchanted forest. Step followed step, and story followed story – from the mystery of “The Swan Prince” to the legend of “The Stone Kingdom”, through time with “The Seventh Spell” and to the music of “The Song Caster”, under the dueling lights of “The Sun’s Rival” and into the storm of “The Surrogate Sea”, taking a side jaunt with “The Sky-Child and Other Stories” along the way. And now at last, the journey nears its end.

From the inspired hand of Yana Naumova, I present to you…

…the face of the final Wilderhark Tales novella.

(Click to zoom in for a closeup)
(Click to zoom in for a closeup)

For Gant-o’-the-Lute, “ever after” has been less than happy. With the last of Carillon’s charm over him gone, the minstrel-king puts royalty behind him in pursuit of the music he once knew and the lifelong dream he let slip through his fingers. But dark whispers on the wind warn that time is running out – not only for Lute and the apprentice in his shadow, but the whole of earth and Sky.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

The Outside

Those of you who’ve laid hands on hard copies of the previous Wilderhark Tales may be saying to yourselves, “Is it just me, or is the spine of Book Seven looking pretty fancy?”

To which I say, “It’s not just you.”

My perfectionist eye has grown disgruntled with the comparative plainness of my Wilderhark covers’ typography – particularly on the spines. I want my book babies’ exteriors to flaunt a touch more pop!, and I just may have finally figured out how to achieve it. This means that by the time the last novella launches (barring insurmountable shenanigans), all of the preceding Tales will be gussied up to match it. Sing hey for self-pubbing with print-on-demand, where such tweaks can be made without bringing the world to its knees!

The Inside

I shall be frank with you: This story both pleases me and breaks me every time I read it. It is an emotional, bittersweet, and straight-up painful goodbye to the series that’s become so dear to a number of hearts. I hope you love it and/or curse my name through your tears.

In the meantime… what do you think of the cover? ^^

Guest-o’-the-Lute (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, “He quite quotably described himself in the fourth of the Wilderhark Tales novellas thus:

I am called Gant-o’-the-Lute, by most. Lute only, by my friends. Jackillen, by my dear beloved. Minstrel extraordinaire, by anyone with any musical taste to speak of. And far less pleasant things by those who’ve had occasion to meet more than their match in myself in this field or that and were inclined to be rather sore sports about it.

“Welcome, Lute!” Will greets the minstrel in blue now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what are your thoughts regarding the multiple people who have seen you on the cover of your latest book and assumed it’s a girl?”

Off-camera, Allyn buries his face in his hands. Lute’s eyes, meanwhile, flash a bit over-bright, but the fingers softly tickling the strings of the lute in his lap never tense. “It’s bothersome,” he says coolly, “but I suppose they are not wholly to be blamed. I was an uncommonly pretty lad.”

“An aesthetic you’ve yet to outgrow. Now, though I just now called it ‘your book’, the fact is that it contains a number of stories, only three of which feature you. Tell us a bit about those?”

“Certainly. Chief among them is the titular tale, ‘The Sky-Child’. It follows me from my infancy through the daring escapade that would later land me in the middle of the infamous Seventh Spell – all of it excellent, though in my opinion, it’s not ‘til I make the transition from child to minstrel that the story really starts to sing. Somewhat literally.” He smiles. “The narrative is interspersed with original songs.

“The second story of which I’m a part is a companion to ‘The Seventh Spell’, offering perspectives on the adventure not seen during Book Three of The Wilderhark Tales. And the third, the collection’s finale, serves to echo the poem at the book’s opening, as well as matters touched upon in ‘The Sky-Child’. Prepare to shed tears, Scarlet; I happen to know you’re an easy cry.”

The corner of Will’s mouth crooks upward. “I’m an easy lot of things. A slight switching of gears: Of the stories in the book that don’t include you, which is your favorite and why?”

“Hmm,” Lute hums, his inner eye skimming the table of contents. “‘Skie Welduwark ’.”

Will blinks. “Was that English?”

“Welken, actually, as is the story – an account of the genesis of earth and Sky. I’d have given much to be there,” he says wistfully. “How marvelous would it have been to watch the world first awake? Oh, the songs of it I’d sing!”

“And well worth hearing, they would be,” Will concedes. “One last thing I’d like to hear from you, if you please. Tell me, Lute, what is our mutual author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He bats his lashes. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Lute’s laugh rings ‘round the stage. “Now, that would set you crying. I’m too much for you, Will Scarlet, and I think you know it well. That leaves secrets to tell. What shall I disclose?… Mm, not the most mortifying.” He shakes his head. “She’d not soon forgive me, and I’ve need of her yet. A deep secret, then: As an author, there are truths of her to be found in near every character she writes. But of all those who populate her Wilderhark Tales – and though I would have once been mortified to admit this is so – I believe she is most like me. Not in musical skill, mind you, or in most skills at all; she’s far beneath me there. Yet in spirit, we have much in common. Far too much. Though she’s got it the worse,” he says, his smile as bright and sharp as sunlight, “for I less often bother to play at what you call ‘being nice’.”

“So I’ve had opportunity to observe,” says Will. “Hey, 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 The Sky-Child and Other Stories (A Wilderhark Tales Collection)’, Book 6.5 in the series.

Sky-Child Cover, front 02

Born into a world his heart knows as beneath him, an extraordinary boy becomes a man of music, hopeful that someday he’ll find a way higher.

As the first day dawns, a world comes awake, order and disorder striking a dangerous balance.

Under the stars, a princess and tailor trade age-old lore, little dreaming of the future that could trap them in the past.

All of it in, around, and far above the timeless trees of Wilderhark, the forest whose secrets reveal themselves slowly, if ever at all.

Tales of beginnings. Tales of quests for belonging. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew something of Wilderhark’s tales. Now for the stories that fall in between.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you as well, Gant-o’-the-Lute. 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!”

Open Journal: “Sky-Child” Release Day

Another Launch Day is upon us. Y’know, the day where the book in question has probably already been available for days or weeks prior to this, in one format or another, but we consolidate as much of the excitement as we can on this one particular date because, whatever, it’s nice to have a single point on the calendar to rally around.

The book of the hour is “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”, subtitled either “(A Wilderhark Tales Collection”) or “(Book Six-and-a-Half of The Wilderhark Tales”), depending on whether you’re looking at the front or back cover.

Sky-Child cover, full spread

For Wilderhark Tales past, I saw your Launch Day and raised you an entire Launch Week – up to eight days of prizes and bonus materials and character interviews and guest posts in the web spaces of gracious fellow bloggers. It’s always quite the shindig. But this time around, I told myself, “No.”

Then I told myself, “Oh, heck, Lute’s gonna kill me…” ‘Cause any reader of “The Song Caster” could tell you how he reacts to feeling cheated.

And he was spitting mad at me for a few minutes, there. But then – unexpectedly – he got it.

He got how utterly exhausting it is to organize a blog tour and create hopefully exciting content and fight with the printer to produce custom bookmarks / postcards / art prints / what have you.

He got how drained I still was coming off of the Launch Week for Book Six, and how “Sky-Child”s launch right on the heels of the “Steel & Bone” anthology release would mean I’d have even less energy to generate another book’s buzz.

He got that I am just this side of completely burnt out, and that if I want to be able to give the Wilderhark Tales finale my best push in October, I need to allow myself a break.

He got that this wasn’t a matter of me acting against him. This is me vs. the weariness that comes of battling to be seen and heard and valued in an oblivious world.

He got that. Because, in a way, that’s his story.

So he forgave me my limitations, and said he would support me in whatever I chose to do or not do in regards to “Sky-Child”s launch.

And everybody in my head just gaped at him, because no one expects that level of understanding and compassion from Gant-o’-the-freaking-Lute.

“Because I never cease to amaze,” says Lute – adding with a pointed sniff, “Just as you people never cease to underestimate me.”

Sky-Child and Me 6

…All that to say, low key, “The Sky-Child” is out now, and I’d be super grateful were everyone to nab a paperback (Amazon or CreateSpace) or e-book (Kindle or Nook) and then, perchance, leave a review. (Because neither minstrels nor authors can take the world by storm very well without some word of mouth.)

And that’s all she wrote on the subject. …Until Friday, when Lute’s got an interview with a certain scarlet talk show host.

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!”

Behind the Talette: “Starheart”

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

“One of these days,” says Rosalba, “you shall have to tell me the Stone Kingdom story you heard as a child. I would be most interested to see how it compares with Denebdeor’s history.”

“Uh-oh,” Edgwyn chuckles. “I think you’re giving our author ideas.”

(Heck yeah, she is!)

— from “The Stone Kingdom Character Commentary”

That idea stayed with me, too, prompting me to coax Edgwyn’s favorite childhood tale out of imagination and onto the page. As I settled in to write it, though, I realized it wasn’t a story I wanted to tell. Like Rosalba, I wanted to hear it from Edgwyn! Because as readers of “The Sun’s Rival” (or the first two Wilderhark Talettes, for that matter) can attest, Edgwyn bedtime stories are the bomb-diggity best.

Thus was “Starheart” born. And some folks are in for a special privilege. Because you know Wilderhark Tales book 6.5, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”? Those other stories include “Starheart” – meaning that Wilderhark Talette subscribers get to enjoy this taste of the collection before everyone who has to wait until the whole book releases in July. So here’s lookin’ at you, hipsters. X)

Edg 'n' Rose figurines, as sculpted by beloved fan-friend Chelsea de la Cruz.
Edg ‘n’ Rose figurines, as sculpted by beloved fan-friend Chelsea de la Cruz.

Let it here be known: This story was a joy to write. It’s been so long since I first found my way through “The Stone Kingdom”; I hadn’t even realized how much I missed hanging out with Edgwyn and Rosalba in their relationship’s earliest days.

I also enjoyed getting to explore a bit more of the princess and tailor’s cultures – both through his presentation of a classic children’s tale of his generation, and her overview of a mythology revered as history among the Great Land’s royals. Regarding the latter (and much to the gratification of my realism-loving writing buddy *winks for Tirzah*), it turns out there’s actually a solid explanation for why, as Gant-o’-the-Lute once bemoaned in “The Song Caster”, their world has yet to experience international war.

So whether you’re in it for the worldbuilding or the distinction of reading a story ahead of the crowd, or you’re just hankering hard for a sweet Edg ‘n’ Rose fix, this is a tale(tte) that I, for one, don’t think you oughtta miss. “Starheart” awaits you on Channillo.com; have you got your subscription? ;D

Happy [Belated] Book Birthday to THE ARTISANS!

This time last week, while the next Wilderhark Tales title was debuting its face, an entire BOOK went out into the world! …with me having been under the impression it wasn’t supposed to launch until today. Welp, no matter. Never too late to put the word out about a book! So ladies and gentleman, if you’d be so good as to direction your attention to…

Artisans, TheThe Book: “The Artisans” by Julie Reece.

Genre: YA Paranormal

Blurb: They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?

My Thoughts: **ARC received in exchange for an honest review**

Raven Weathersby has a good voice on her – smart and detailed, with a healthy amount of teen attitude in the mix. Particularly in a spin on a fairy tale where the Beauty trades in her freedom for confinement in the Beast’s castle, one could expect the book to take the road often traveled in young-adult books by isolating the heroine from any fleshed-out relationships beyond that between her and the male lead. To my pleasant surprise, however, a generous portion of Raven’s story includes interactions with a number of non-romantic loved ones – the alcoholic step-dad she’s burdened to care for, the duo of best friends who have her back throughout the arrangement with her captor, even her oversized cat. I appreciated this solid contribution to the rounding out of Raven’s character, which made her feel more authentic to me than her “beastly” counterpart, Gideon Maddox, for whom I had trouble getting past the shiny veneer to the heart within.

Augmenting the book’s fairytale component was a Southern Gothic ghost story, complete with eerie spirits ranging from pitiable to ghastly. Some of the scenes were so effectively horrific that I physically cringed and squirmed, for which I give props to the author despite my dislike for being too strongly crept-out. The ghost element added an intriguing layer and elevation of the stakes in a story which might otherwise have had more difficulty holding my interest for the length of the novel. And the mystery that arose regarding Raven’s origins, left partially unexplained at book’s end, has me curious to know what’s coming in the projected sequel.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you’ve got a taste for a spooky, contemporary take on a fairytale favorite, you may find “The Artisans” to be tailor-made for you.

All Will Be Revealed

And by “all”, I mean the covers of two soon-to-be-released books with Danielle E. Shipley stories inside of them!

Cover the First

If you keep an eye on me on Facebook and Twitter, chances are you’ve seen this one already. But for those of you who missed it, I now present to you, in its debut appearance on the Ever On Word blog, the face of Xchyler Publishing’s upcoming anthology, “Steel and Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures”!

Shovel the coal and stoke the boilers as nine Steampunk authors explore islands of mystery and adventure across the seven seas.

“The Clockwork Seer” by Katherine Cowley: On an island of oddities, a young clairvoyant struggles for normalcy, but deadly automatons have other plans.

“Sindisiwe” by Scott E. Tarbet: A slave girl in Zanzibar escapes a beating when a stranger in the marketplace proves her past in more than just a fairy tale.

“Stand and Deliver” by TC Phillips: Neither shackles, slave labor, nor the island’s deadliest inhabitants will prevent these brothers from meting out justice to their father’s murderers.

“Island Walker” by C. R. Simper: Kit digs her treasures out of trash heaps, but the theft of her invention leads to discoveries money can’t buy.

“A Mind Prone to Wander” by Danielle E. Shipley: Beyond a locked door lies Rowan Charles’ death or his sanity, and the survival or extinction of his people.

“Curio Cay” by Sarah E. Seeley: The future of humanity rests in the hands of three time-traveling scientists battling biomechanical creatures in the Jurassic past.

“The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison” by Kin Law: Dodging her chaperone, a debutante stumbles into adventure and romance at the World’s Fair.

“Revolutionary” by John M. Olsen: A dirigible captain goes down with his ship, and wakes to find himself a captive of a sky-dwelling civilization.

“The Steel Inside” by Gail B. Williams: Darkness lurks in Sarah’s forgotten past, kept hidden by those who claim to be her devoted husband and loyal servants.

Steel and Bone, cover front

Ahhh, my very first authorial venture into steampunk… I look forward to holding you in hand.

The book’s available to add to your Goodreads shelves, and will be out for everyone’s reading pleasure June 27th. But hey – if you’re up for an early read in exchange for an honest review, give a shout and I’ll score you an ARC!

Cover the Second

I did something a little different for the cover reveal of my next Wilderhark Tales title. Instead of rounding up volunteers on my own, I engaged the prompt and professional services of Lola’s Blog Tours. It’s been nice, getting to leave the cover reveal’s organization to somebody else, for a change. And it’s extra nice to finally be able to show off yet another piece of breathtaking Yana Naumova artwork on my blog. Behold, my friends: “The Sky-Child and Other Stories (A Wilderhark Tales Collection)”!

Born into a world his heart knows as beneath him, an extraordinary boy becomes a man of music, hopeful that someday he’ll find a way higher.

As the first day dawns, a world comes awake, order and disorder striking a dangerous balance.

Under the stars, a princess and tailor trade age-old lore, little dreaming of the future that could trap them in the past.

All of it in, around, and far above the timeless trees of Wilderhark, the forest whose secrets reveal themselves slowly, if ever at all.

Tales of beginnings. Tales of quests for belonging. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew something of Wilderhark’s tales. Now for the stories that fall in between.

Sky-Child Cover, front 02

High goodness, Gant-o’-the-Lute, how were you so beautiful as a youngster?

He shrugs, indifferent. “Genetics, I expect.”

Yes. Well. *awkward cough, ‘cause some characters are just weird to ogle* Book 6.5 of The Wilderhark Tales is coming for you on July 7th. Like the steampunk antho, “The Sky-Child” is on Goodreads. Also likewise, I’ve got ARCs for folks interested in a read ‘n’ review ahead of the pack. You have only to ask. ^_^

Eyes on you now, readers. What think ye of the covers above? Share your thoughts below!