A Few Bars of BALLAD: Stanza One

2 weeks ‘til the release of the “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, which means two things:

1) It’s the LAST WEEK to take advantage of my pre-order + thank-you gifts offer! Don’t miss out, y’all!

2) It’s time for another sneak peek inside this soon-to-launch novel of my heart – this excerpt introducing its minstrel protagonist, the one and only Allyn-a-Dale.

Of course, readers of my Wilderhark Tales will have already met him, as well as his father. “Ballad”s first chapter (not counting the prologue we sampled last week) picks up not many days after the series’ final book, “The Story’s End”, left off. If you’ve read it, you’ll have a pretty good idea where that places Allyn emotionally. If you haven’t… well, here’s your chance to find out. Come in closer. But quietly, now. This is a somber occasion.

“He looks all wrong.”

Allyn hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the words had slipped out of their own volition. And why not, when they were only true? Jackillen Gant did look all wrong. Because he was so pale, his shining light dimmed and sparkling energy gone. Because he was so unmoving, when nothing before could ever hold him still. Because he was clothed in expensive finery, golden crown upon his golden head, inside a grand castle filled with everyone from the land’s highest officials to its lowliest farm girls, every one of them come to pay him honor. Because he had once been king, and now he was dead. All of it wrong, so wrong.

“I know,” murmured Dorian — Allyn’s brother, though quite old enough to have fathered him, had the man lying in the extravagant coffin not beaten him to it. Beside the king of the last nineteen years stood his wife, his sons and daughters (a number of them also older than Allyn), and his twin sister and partner in the rule of Carillon, Queen Ioniana, all of whom belonged in this royal setting more than the dearly departed Jackillen did.

More, too, than did Allyn.

“But it’s for The People,” Ioniana joined in the murmuring. “You understand.”

No, I don’t, Allyn thought. He didn’t understand why his father’s funeral had become this long drawn-out ceremony “for The People,” or why it seemed any action taken by Dorian and Ioniana seemed only ever to be “for The People,” or why “The People,” if they’d cared about Father so much, would want to see him made up without his say-so to look like the king he’d never desired to be.

The whole thing was a farce of the most tragic kind. Had Father been there — alive, that is — he’d have shattered the music of mourning with a countermelody of derisive laughter. “There’s a satirical song in here, somewhere!” he’d say, and would then have proceeded to find it and play it to an audience rolling on the floor with hilarity.

The thought caused Allyn’s lips to twitch. “Go on, lad,” he could hear Father’s voice urging, as it had so often when his lips twitched in such wise. “It won’t break your porcelain face entirely to crack the smallest smile.” And often, to please Father, a full smile would follow.

It didn’t now. It couldn’t. Not when his motivation for smiling lay embalmed in unwanted gold.

“Forgive me, Father,” Allyn whispered, his small hand hovering over the glass lid of the casket. “I should not have brought you here.”

Poor, dear Allyn. Little does he know that the tragic end he’s faced is only the beginning. What adventure lies ahead on the mourning minstrel’s path? Short answer: Summarized past the section break below. Full story: Comin’ atcha July 12th!

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Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

Stay tu-u-uned!

P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!

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The Storm of the South (“Surrogate Sea” Bookmark Giveaway)

One week* ‘til the launch of “The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)”!

*(Though, WHEE! You can totally order it early! Like, NOW! Pre-order the Kindle e-book here! Or the paperback here or here! Or the Nook e-book here!)

Also known as, a perfect day to show off a little Wilderhark swag, a quickie peek at a related snippet from the book, and – oh, yeah – let you know that, this week only, in honor of the upcoming release of Book Six, you can get the Kindle e-book of Book Five for just 99 cents!

That’s right – “The Sun’s Rival” Kindle e-book can be yours (or your friends’, or their friends’…!) at a delightfully discounted $0.99. Because while Book Six can absolutely be enjoyed on its own, the series is best experienced from start to end. ^_^ Spread the word!

Sun's Rival 99 Cents

And now, brought to you by the talented hand of Wilderhark Artist Yana Naumova, here’s the bringer of rain and master of guile, Austeryn, Wind of the South!

Austeryn, art gallery size

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The expression on Austeryn’s face was impossible to read. “My daughter has fallen in love with Ionquin Wyle?”

“Yes, after she saved him from her storm, the other day.”

“So you have taken her place…”

“That’s right,” Liliavaine said, bracing herself as the wind drew forward, in case he intended another wrathful attack.

But on the contrary, Austeryn only clasped his liquid-and-air hands to her shoulders, his lips stretched into a seemingly delighted smile. “Thank you, Liliavaine. You have done both Muirigan and me a great service.”

Liliavaine ducked her head. “I am pleased to hear it, though I confess I agreed to my part in this with little thought to charity. I only wished to be the Sea that I might…” Shyness tinged her cheeks pink before she finished, “That I might seek a love.”

“Seek a love?” Austeryn chuckled. “That would be an awkward thing. You’re already married.”

Liliavaine’s head jerked up, her eyes round with shock and brows knitted in confusion. “Married?! No I’m not! To whom??”

Ticking off the points on his fingers, Austeryn replied, “Item one, yes, married. Item two, yes you are. Item three…” He smiled. “To me.”

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“The Surrogate Sea” in its entirety officially launches Tuesday, March 24. In the meantime, who’d like to win a bookmark with the Austeryn portrait shown here? There are five ways to enter the giveaway:

1) Order your copy of “The Surrogate Sea” via any of the links shared at the beginning of this post, and comment here with the word, “Ordered!”

2) Add “The Surrogate Sea” to your Goodreads shelf and comment here with the word, “Added!”

3) Order your 99-cent Kindle e-copy of “The Sun’s Rival” (or, if you already own the e-book, gift one to somebody! Or both! Still just 99 cents!), and comment here with, “Just bought Book 5!”

4) Comment here with your answer to the question, “What is your favorite kind of weather and why?”

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And/or 5) Incidentally, it’s the 1-year anniversary of INSPIRED! ^o^ So, leave your favorite quote from the book below, and it’s a giveaway entry, yo!

One winner will be selected at random and contacted over the weekend. Best of luck to all entrants!

Book Banner, Surrogate Sea

The Sea’s storm brought them together, and the Sea’s rules will keep them apart, unless the mute but melodious Muirigan can find another to take her place, freeing her to pursue the human man she loves. But when her plan collides with the schemes of the sly South Wind, a princess’s agenda to look for love in all the most fantastic places, and a prince whose head and heart have been long years at war, the result is a tragedy of errors from which the world might never recover.

The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)

“The Surrogate Sea, more than any other Wilderhark tale to date, takes the heartstrings and pulls them out from under you. There is fury, ecstasy, heartache, and resignation to be found within these pages beautifully bound up in true love and tragedy as only Ms. Shipley can.” – early praise from reader Chelsea de la Cruz

The Princess and the Sea (“Surrogate Sea” Bookmark Giveaway)

Two weeks* ‘til the launch of “The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)”!

*(Though, WHEE! The Kindle e-book is available for pre-order NOW!)

Also known as, a perfect day to show off a little Wilderhark swag and a quickie peek at a related snippet from the book. ;D Brought to you by the talented hand of Wilderhark Artist Yana Naumova, here are (left to right) Muirigan, daughter of wind and water, and Princess Liliavaine of Denebdeor!

Lily and Muirigan, art gallery size

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Muirigan shook her head sorrowfully. I cannot survive beyond the reach of my greater self.

I cannot leave.

Unless… Muirigan turned to Liliavaine, her eyes alight with some new hope.

“Unless what?”

Unless I were not the Great Sea, she wrote.

Unless someone else were the Sea.

Someone like you.

“Me?” The human princess gaped. “But that’s absurd. One does not simply wake up one morning and decide to become the sea!”

True, Muirigan agreed.

But the Sea can decide to pass her greater self onto another.

That is how I became the Great Sea, and how Mother became the Great Sea before me.

Everything must die, but there must always be a Sea.

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“The Surrogate Sea” in its entirety launches Tuesday, March 24. In the meantime, who’d like to win a bookmark with the portrait of Muirigan and Liliavaine shown here? There are two ways to enter the giveaway:

1) Pre-order your Kindle e-copy of “The Surrogate Sea” and comment here with the word, “Pre-ordered!”

2) Add “The Surrogate Sea” to your Goodreads shelf and comment here with the word, “Added!”

And/or 3) Comment here with your answer to the question, “If you could wake up as anyone different, just for a day or three, who would you choose and why?”

One winner will be selected at random and contacted over the weekend. Best of luck to all entrants!

Book Banner, Surrogate Sea

The Sea’s storm brought them together, and the Sea’s rules will keep them apart, unless the mute but melodious Muirigan can find another to take her place, freeing her to pursue the human man she loves. But when her plan collides with the schemes of the sly South Wind, a princess’s agenda to look for love in all the most fantastic places, and a prince whose head and heart have been long years at war, the result is a tragedy of errors from which the world might never recover.

The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)

“Seriously. These books just keep getting better and better! Danielle Shipley has…written a book that totally tugged at my heartstrings and made me love her characters more and more!” – early praise from reader Emerald Barnes

The Prince and the Forest (“Surrogate Sea” Bookmark Giveaway)

Three weeks ‘til the launch of “The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)”! Also known as, a perfect day to show off a little Wilderhark swag, a quickie peek at a related snippet from the book, and – oh, yeah – let you know that, this week only, in honor of the upcoming release of Book Six, you can get the Kindle e-book of Book Three for just 99 cents!

That’s right – “The Seventh Spell” Kindle e-book can be yours (or your friends’, or their friends’…!) at a delightfully discounted $0.99. Because while Book Six can absolutely be enjoyed on its own, the series is best experienced from start to end. ^_^ Spread the word!

Seventh Spell 99 Cents

And now, brought to you by the talented hand of Wilderhark Artist Yana Naumova, here’s the dreamy Crown Prince of Denebdeor, Ionquin Wyle!

Ionquin, art gallery size

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The sky was still the pearly gray of predawn when the prince stepped beneath the canopy of leaves. Almost at once, a sense of calm began to settle over him, the undercurrent of unrest carried within him for what felt like a lifetime now melting into the shadows. After a period of unhurried walking, Ionquin simply stood, head tipped back and eyes closed, content to breathe in the air saturated with quiet and stillness and that near-inexpressible essence of the woods – what he’d come to refer to as “the time of the trees”.

When his eyes opened, they were met by those of an even deeper, greener hue than their own, gazing from a face which seemed somehow both older and younger than it looked. Ionquin recognized the man right away – if a man he could rightly be called – and greeted him politely. “A good morning to you, Wilderhark.”

“And to you, Prince Ionquin,” the forest replied, his voice like the rustle of the leaves inside of him. He stepped closer, towering a full head taller than Ionquin (who was by no means short), those ancient eyes scrutinizing the young man’s face. “What unhappiness brings you here?”

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“The Surrogate Sea” in its entirety launches Tuesday, March 24. In the meantime, who’d like to win a bookmark with the Ionquin portrait shown here? There are three ways to enter the giveaway:

1) Add “The Surrogate Sea” to your Goodreads shelf and comment here with the word, “Added!”

And/or 2) Order your 99-cent Kindle e-copy of “The Seventh Spell” (or, if you already own the e-book, gift one to somebody! Or both! Still just 99 cents!), and comment here with, “Just bought Book 3!”

And/or 3) Comment here with your answer to the question, “Where is your happy place?”

One winner will be selected at random and contacted over the weekend. Best of luck to all entrants!

Book Banner, Surrogate Sea

The Sea’s storm brought them together, and the Sea’s rules will keep them apart, unless the mute but melodious Muirigan can find another to take her place, freeing her to pursue the human man she loves. But when her plan collides with the schemes of the sly South Wind, a princess’s agenda to look for love in all the most fantastic places, and a prince whose head and heart have been long years at war, the result is a tragedy of errors from which the world might never recover.

The Surrogate Sea (Book Six of The Wilderhark Tales)

“As usual, Ms. Shipley has spun a tale that kept me riveted and on the edge of my seat. … If you haven’t read this spectacular series, I suggest you start from the beginning and give yourself the gift of [the] Wilderhark Tales.” – early praise from reader Kim Matura

Moonlight Reflections (“Sun’s Rival” Tease & Giveaway)

With a week and a day ‘til the December 2nd release of the “The Sun’s Rival (Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales)” – (although, BIG HONKING NEWS, the Kindle e-book is now available for pre-order, whee-ha!) – here’s a peek at what’s coming in the novella – as well as a chance to win one of Wilderhark artist Yana Naumova’s gorgeous bookmarks!

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“Enjoy the clear skies while you can,” the voice he despised above all others spoke from behind him. “It won’t last forever.”

“Nothing does,” said Lumónd – in a considerable act of self-will, keeping the sudden tension in his jaw out of his voice. He cast a cool glance over his shoulder. “You’re up late, brother. Is it for no reason other than to follow me?”

His brother advanced ‘til they stood side by side, then took just one step more. Lumónd couldn’t even be certain whether the show of dominance was done deliberately, or if it was simply Raeóryn being Raeóryn.

“I expect we’re both here with the same motive,” said the golden king. “Room to breathe.”

Then you ought to have stayed inside, Lumónd thought frostily. For the two of them together, there was never room enough.

If Raeóryn felt the same way, he refused to show it – only inhaled long and deep, then released the air in a satisfied ahhh. “The day went well,” he observed.

Lumónd nodded, conceding the statement’s truth. The princess and her parents had responded favorably, as of course no one had ever doubted they would; not with his dazzlingly charming brother doing most of the talking. On occasion, the conversation drew onto the verge of turning in a precarious direction. Raeóryn’s aforementioned dazzle had deflected most of it. When necessary, Lumónd had discreetly taken care of the rest – particularly during dinner, at about which time he could see his brother’s naturally persuasive energy begin to fade.

If all went as hoped, everything would be made known soon enough, with no more need for secrets. Until then, best to keep quiet certain… irrelevancies. For now, Princess Laraspur would remain in the dark.

Lumónd, art gallery size

Laraspur. Lumónd closed his eyes, his mind’s eye gazing upon the sleeping princess. Her hair tumbled across her pillow, framing the pale circle of her peaceful face in the moonlight. His heart trembled at the very sight of her.

“Stop that.”

Raeóryn delivered the command like a backhand. Lumónd held unflinching.

“Why?” He slid his eyes around to point at his brother behind lashes raised only partway. His mouth’s corners curled upward, defiant. “Just because you can’t?”

“Because,” said Raeóryn, his gaze hot enough to blister, “she is not yours.”

“Nor is she yours.”

A dismissive sniff of a breath. “Don’t let’s play games, little brother. We both know there is no question—”

“Oh, none at all,” Lumónd said bitterly. “There never is, with you. Everything in your world is so perfectly ordered. Dawn in the east and dusk in the west. Spring follows winter, and summer, spring. And given a choice between you and me, certainly no young woman in possession of her senses would choose me.”

“And we will assume,” said Raeóryn, in patronizing tones, “that Princess Laraspur is in possession of her senses and shall remain so, will we not?”

Lumónd refused to dignify that with a response.

Raeóryn tipped his head back, contemplative gaze on the patterns of stars overheard. “I do wonder,” he mused, “why you even bothered to come here.”

With a shake of the head like a shrug, he turned on his heel and departed, leaving Lumónd alone with the empty night.

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I dunno, guys – looking at that utterly stunning Lumónd bookmark, there might be someone out there willing to choose him over their senses. (*coughs* *volunteers as tribute* *coughs*) And as of now, that author-signed bookmark is up for grabs. I’ll tell you how to win it, after a quick word from an advance reader on why they love “The Sun’s Rival”, as quoted from Goodreads*:

“I adore how [Shipley combines] fantasy, adventure and romance into a story I can’t put down. I have read all the Wilderhawk Tales and each one is better than the last.” – Kim Matura

*Speaking of Goodreads, I’ve got another giveaway going on over there. (Does my mad generosity have no end?!) From here ‘til Release Day, enter to win one of five beautiful paperbacks of “The Sun’s Rival”! …or order it now. Either’s awesome. ^_^

And now, the question of the day: What choice(s) have you made in spite of sense, and how’d that work out for you? ^^

Answer below, and one commenter (chosen at random one week from today) shall win the prize. Good luck to all entrants, and here’s counting down the days until “Sun’s Rival”s release!

Time-Honored Traditions (“Sun’s Rival” Tease & Giveaway)

With one month ‘til the December 2nd release of the “The Sun’s Rival (Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales)”, here’s a peek at what’s coming in the novella – as well as a chance to win one of Wilderhark artist Yana Naumova’s gorgeous bookmarks!

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“A tradition of strange adventures, you say?” Raeóryn tipped his head in interest. “And what was the nature of your adventure, Princess?”

“Oh, I haven’t had any.”

“…Yet,” Raeóryn suggested.

Laraspur’s brows drew together in a pensive frown. “I’m not altogether sure I want one. I wouldn’t mind traveling to far-off places, as I daresay that much would be all very exciting. But whenever my parents talk about it – or, rather, don’t talk about it – just for a moment, their eyes turn so weary and sad, it makes me wonder at adventure’s cost. I think… I think they must have come very close to losing each other.”

“And the thought of losing someone you love frightens you?”

“Of course,” said Laraspur, brows now rearranged in an expression of confusion. “Does it not frighten you?”

“Frighten? No.”

“If that does not frighten you,” Laraspur said slowly, “then either you have never known fear, or you have never known love.” She stared him full in his molten eyes, though it almost hurt her own eyes to do so. “Which is it?”

Raeóryn, art gallery sizeRaeóryn gazed back at her intently. “I have never known fear,” he said. “And I have never known love, until the moment I saw you.”

Laraspur’s heart fluttered wildly. Until the moment I saw you… It was almost enough to wipe her mind of every other thought.

Almost.

“What of Lumónd?” she managed to ask. “Do you not love him?” Perhaps one could not expect everyone to feel as close to their brother as Laraspur did to Ionquin, but surely Raeóryn and Lumónd must feel some love for each other.

For the briefest of moments, fast as her parents’ weary sorrow, she saw something flare behind the king’s eyes. “I will not speak ill of my brother to you,” he said. “It would not be seemly, given that we both seek your hand. But I will tell you there is no love lost between us. There is a reason it is customary for a kingdom to have only one king.”

“Is there a reason yours has two?”

Raeóryn turned to face the east once more, his eyes tightening ever so little. “Welken is a very large place. Larger than you might imagine. It was determined long ago that so great a realm ought not to be ruled by one king alone, and so it has always had two. I, personally, do not see the sense of this. I would be fully capable of managing all of Welken on my own; though, of course,” he added, the resentment leaving his face in an instant as he smiled down at Laraspur, “I should be very glad to have a queen at my side.”

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Phew, is it just me, or does gazing at that super-hot Raeóryn bookmark kind of raise the temperature around here? ;D And as of now, that author-signed bookmark is up for grabs. I’ll tell you how to win it, after a quick word from an advance reader on why they love “The Sun’s Rival” (as quoted from Goodreads*, where you can totally add this upcoming Wilderhark Tales to your “want to read” shelf):

“Beautifully written, The Sun’s Rival lives up to the series’ reputation! It brings a delightful mix of old, familiar characters and introduces intriguing new ones who leap off the page right into the mind’s eye! In a nice change of pace we get to spend a bit of time with some of our favorite characters relaxed in their normal (for fairytale royalty) lives. This story brings wonderful depth to the family dynamic, highlighting sibling relationships in particular, both healthy and unhealthy. … The Sun’s Rival does not disappoint!” – Chelsea

*Speaking of Goodreads, I’ve got another giveaway going on over there. (Does my mad generosity have no end?!) From here ‘til Release Day, enter to win one of five beautiful paperbacks of “The Sun’s Rival”!

And now, the question of the day: What’s an adventure, great or small, that you would love to have?

Answer below, and one commenter (chosen at random one week from today) shall win the prize. Good luck to all entrants, and here’s counting down the days until “Sun’s Rival”s release!

The Sky-Light’s Shadow (“Sun’s Rival” Tease & Giveaway!)

With two months ‘til the December 2nd release of the “The Sun’s Rival (Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales)”, here’s a peek at what’s coming in the novella – as well as a chance to win one of Wilderhark artist Yana Naumova’s gorgeous bookmarks!

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Chancing to look upward, Laraspur spied a small, pale shape in the sky – a half-disc of shadowy white in the expanse of blue. The sight bestirred a memory. A dark, warm whisper of a long-ago night.

The sun envies the moon, her ear remembered her father’s tender murmur, because the moon can stay in the sky all day and nightIt is just that we cannot always see his light, because the sun shines so much brighter…

That was how she felt today, Laraspur realized. Rendered invisible by the brilliance of her sisters. Outshone by their impossible beauty. The moon nobody saw for the light of the sun.

Staring at that faint shadow-light above her, Laraspur whispered: “I see you.”

Laraspur, art gallery size

“Lar?”

Turning, Laraspur beheld her brother stride over to tower above her. “What are you doing out here?” he asked. “The party’s inside.”

Striving to keep her tone light, Laraspur replied, “I just felt like being alone, for a bit.”

“Would you not rather dance?”

“Not really,” she lied.

One princely eyebrow lifted in an expression of smiling invitation. “Not even with me?”

“Don’t be kind, please,” said Laraspur, turning away. “I’m sure you have your pick of girls with which to dance.”

“Who’s being kind?” said Ionquin. “I want to make all the other young men jealous when they observe that I am partnered with the most graceful dancer here.”

Laraspur was not fooled for a moment, but gave him her hand nonetheless. If nothing else, any young ladies looking their way might be made to feel jealous – so long as they were unaware that the dancers were brother and sister…

Besides, Laraspur adored dancing. Loved losing herself in the movement. As she spun ‘round the terrace with Ionquin, the skirts of her perfect dress swirling around her, Laraspur felt her self-pity melting away, and could even imagine that someone watching her right then could find her beautiful – little knowing that two someones were doing precisely that.

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Make that at least three someones; looking at the Laraspur bookmark pictured above, I can certainly find her beautiful! And as of now, that author-signed bookmark is up for grabs. I’ll tell you how to win it, after a quick word from an advance reader on why they love “The Sun’s Rival” (as quoted from Goodreads, where you can totally add this upcoming Wilderhark Tales to your “want to read” shelf):

“This is a beautiful, creative retelling of Psyche and Cupid, with elegant, gorgeous imagery. Powerful as a sunrise, but gentle as moonlight, this story will sweep you away on a storm. With the return of favorite characters, and the introduction of several new ones, The Sun’s Rival is a lovely addition to The Wilderhark Tales, and probably my favorite book in the series so far.” – Kimberly Kay

And now, the question of the day: When do you feel most beautiful?

Answer below, and one commenter (chosen at random one week from today) shall win the prize. Good luck to all entrants, and here’s counting down the days until “Sun’s Rival”s release!