Something in the Water (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 reads the introduction, as provided by author Ginger Mann.

The siren of the Jilted River; permanent resident of the Hollows. She is lovely in face, with a voice that can stop a man cold in his steps. However, if she keeps at him for long enough, we may never see him again.

Allyn looks from his script, to Will Scarlet, to the audience. “This will go badly.”

“Welcome, Jilted River siren lady!” Will greets the woman center stage. “So glad you could join me. First things first – do you actually have a name? ‘Cause ‘Jilted River siren lady’ runs a bit long.”

“Name?” She moves toward her chair, not walking to it but instead, almost flowing. Her dress makes a silver train around her wrists and feet. “I haven’t been called a name for over a hunnert years. Seems I remember my fiancé once called me ‘Brenda’.” She stares at him blankly. “How ‘bout Brenda.”

“Brenda works! So. A fiancé, huh? Who was the lucky guy?”

Brenda’s eyes shoot daggers at Will Scarlet “Lucky? Did you say lucky?” She clasps her hands together, letting them disappear into each other. Her form is that of a gorgeous young woman with raven hair, coal black eyes, and bright red lips. And, inexplicably, she is dripping all over the floor of the set.

“…Or possibly not so lucky,” Will backtracks. “By the way you stop short of calling him your husband, I assume the wedding somehow fell through?”

“Heh. It fell through, all right. It fell right on through the growwwwnd,” Brenda drawls, leaning back into her chair. “I didn’t do nothin’ to deserve what he did. Loved him with all my heart, adored him like nobody else ever before. Used to sing to him, and show him off to my girlfriends. We were gonna sing right to each other in the weddin’. There I was, all dressed up in my corset and such, holdin’ my flowers, waitin’ on the banks of that river. An’ he shows up and runs off with my singin’ bridesmaid.” Her face starts to shift, and lose its shape.

“Yikes…” says Will – though whether he’s referring to the scandal, Brenda’s face, or both is anyone’s guess.

Seeing her image on the set monitor, she quickly reforms herself into a pretty teenage girl. In a higher, sweeter voice, she finishes, “But, Will, that was nearly a hunnert years ago now. Let’s leave the past in the past, okay, honey? We’re here right now, that’s all that matters.”

“That sounds like a, uh, very healthy way of looking at things. Moving merrily along, then. I notice you and I happen to have a few things in common. Both of us legends around our local forests – Sherwood for me, woods out in the Appalachians for you. Both of us looking bloody good for our magic-enhanced ages and irresistible to unwary hearts…”

Looking at Will appreciatively, her eyes travel the length of his finely clad body. Her arms begin to transform, lengthening and tapering at the ends. Vines begin growing out of her open hands, slowly winding their way down her chair leg and creeping across the floor toward her host. Almost imperceptibly, a forked tongue darts out of her mouth.

From off-camera, Allyn ahems. “Um, Will…”

“I’ve got this, thank you,” Will waves him off, then carries on addressing Brenda. “I gotta say, though, a state park’s underground river sounds like it could be an even cooler place to live than an immortal Renaissance Faire.”

Leaves from her growing vines begin to tickle the ankles of her host. “Oh, you should hear the birds! In the morning when they wake up, singing and hopping around.” She leans in closer. “Do you sing?”

“Uh, not according to Allyn,” says Will, squirming back in his seat. “But, um… I was going somewhere with this… Disappearances! There seem to be a lot of people going missing in your area.”

Vines travel up the sides of his legs, and begin to tickle him under the knees.

“And— ah-haha! You’re a friendly one, aren’t you? But y’know, given that sirens are the sort to lure people into iffy circumstances with vocal beauty even certain minstrels I know might be hard put to match, I can’t help guessing you might be involved. With the missing persons, I mean.”

Vines have grown quickly over the back of Will Scarlet’s chair, and their leaves now begin to stroke him on his cheek.

“You, uh,” he says, his focus clearly dissolving as he leans into the leafy touch. “You wanna give us a hint as to your motive behind all the kidnappings?”

All foliage disappears instantly, and her eyes open wide. “Kidnappin’? I didn’t know about no kidnappin’s. I just stay down in my little river valley an’ take care of my birds. They sing real purty. Ever hear this song? Oh, the cuckoo is a pretty bird, she warbles when she flies . . . I sure love how yer eyes are getting’ all dreamy, Mr. Sparrow. Er, I mean Mr. Scarlet.”

“Will!” Allyn snaps off-camera.

The host’s head whips around. “Wha—? Hang it, Allyn, you broke my concentration! What were we talking about?”

“There were vines—”

“Never mind! New question.” He turns back to Brenda, grin cocked. “What do you look for in a man?”

Vines mysteriously reappear behind Will Scarlet, and remove his hat. “Oh, I look for all sorts ‘a things. Fer instance, does a man look good in blue? An’ does a man have a purty singin’ voice? What kinds ‘a songs d’you know? Wanna sing a duet?”

“Blue? Singing?” Will frowns. “Just my luck; she likes the Gant-o’-the-Lute type. Well, fine, since singing’s such a big part of your shtick: Do you have a favorite song, or type of music?”

The tips of the vines stroke Will’s hair sensuously. “I just loooove the songs you love, Will Scarlet. Why don’t you sing one for me, an’ I’ll chime on in? I got a real knack for singin’ with men, you know. I can make you forget all about yer talk show an’ ever’thing else that ever bothered you. D’you know this song? Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair . . . His face is soft and wond’rous fair . . . You gotta sing with me, Will Scarlet, or this don’t work!” Brenda’s eyes begin to smolder.

“Time for the final question,” Allyn says firmly, braving a step into frame despite any risk posed by his blue-clad, black-haired appearance. “Tell us, Brenda: What is your author Ginger’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?”

Ginger??? she hisses, taken aback. “You mean that guurrrl? I don’t get t’know gurrrls. They got nothin’ fer me, and I got nothin’ for them. All I care is that she can’t sing, so I leave her well enough alone. But I also know she’s one big liar. She don’t look a thang like that picture she put out on the internet. She’s dressed up like some high falutin’ city slicker, but everybody ’round here knows she’s just a crazy ol’ lady on th’ yonder mountain. She raises chickens over there, funny lookin’ chickens. They’re all round, like little basketballs. It ain’t right, but that’s no business of mine. There. That secret don’t cost you nothin’, Will Scarlet. You get it just ’cause I like you.” The vines criss-cross over his chest, hugging him to the chair. One leaf tickles his cheek flirtatiously.

Will casts a glare at Allyn. “You didn’t do it right! You left out the all-important ‘Or would you rather kiss me?’!”

A snake crawls from her mouth and travels across her watery lips, licking it like a tongue. “Oh, Mr. Scarlet, I thought you’d never ask. Not that I need you to.”

She lunges forward, arms open wide. Her mouth engulfs his entire head in a surge of water. Vines melt away with her body, and a giant fountain overwhelms Will Scarlet, submerging him before anyone can do more than cry out in alarm.

One second later, a gush of water flows down the storm drain and away from the set. “Good-bye, Will Scarlet,” Brenda’s voice echoes from the pipes. “Good-bye for now.”

An utterly disheveled Will sits in his sopping wet chair, drenched hatless head to toe, mouth agape. A long moment passes with no sound beyond the drip, drip, drip of water and the labored breathing of a man nearly drowned. Then, “I say, Allyn?”

“Yes, Will?” Allyn says through gritted teeth.

“How ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

Squelching with a huff back to his spot off the stage’s center, Allyn recites, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment was brought to you by Ginger Mann’s ‘Jilted River’ a short story included in The Toll of Another Bell: A Fantasy Anthology.

A teenage girl, Trystan, arrives at the Hollows with her widowed forest ranger father and her twin brother. Two hikers are lost, and the family is there to help. She remembers the Jilted River siren, but she tells herself that it’s just a story. Then, the rescue mission ends badly: one hiker disappears, and two men, including Trystan’s father, vanish on the search. Terrified, Trystan must solve a dark mystery and bring everyone home, before it is too late.

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“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will, wringing out his shirt. “Thanks even to you, Brenda. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided in this post, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

From Sea to Surrogate Sea

Ladies and gentlemen,

fairytale fans of all ages,

it is with great pride and pleasure that I now reveal to you

the cover of the sixth installment of The Wilderhark Tales.

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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)coming Tuesday, March 24, 2015!

(Now on Goodreads, for your “want to read” shelf-building pleasure.)

My dear readers, I almost wept when first my eyes beheld the cover artwork for this book. Yana Naumova has outdone herself, and is even now hard at work on the art for the remainder of the series. My darling novellas wouldn’t the same without her. I am all gratitude.

As stated, “The Surrogate Sea” releases on March 24, kick-off day for the now-traditional Launch Week celebration. Several good buddies have already signed on for the blog tour (Tuesday 24 – Monday 30), but there’s always room for more! So if anyone reading this wants in, give me a poke in the comments or via my contact page, and I’ll get the materials to you in good order. The same goes for anyone game for an advance read ‘n’ review of the book; hit me up!

And This Week Only…

..In honor of the upcoming release of Book 6, you can get the Kindle e-book of Book One for just 99 cents!

That’s right – “The Swan Prince” 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. ^_^

Which of the Wilderhark Tales covers have been your favorites so far? ^^ Sound off below!

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[Re-]Release the Werewolves!

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Heya, Ever On Wordians. Throwing out an extra post, this week, on behalf of fellow author friend J.A. Belfield and her Holloway Pack prequel novella!

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Werewolf Sean Holloway treats the village marketplace like a sexual buffet, though his charm does little to win over his latest entrée of choice. Whether because of Jem Stonehouse’s unique scent, her headstrong nonchalance, or the fact he is forbidden to see her by his pack’s rules, Sean wants her.

When Jem is nothing but flippant toward his advances, he pursues her with vigour, stealing moments alone with her without a libido-driven agenda.

The new and heady experience for him drives their relationship beyond romantic interest, and straight toward love.

That is, until Jem learns the truth about Sean’s heritage. Knowledge of the existence of werewolves leads to only one outcome: death.

In this prequel to Darkness & Light*, we are taken back in time, to the very beginning of Jem and Sean’s love-across-the-centuries relationship.

Did it end there? Or did Sean defy his own pack to save the woman he loves?

*Can be read as a standalone.

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Whoa! I only just now realized what’s going on with that guy’s shadow on the cover. Coolness!

To celebrate its re-release, “Instinct” is FREE for a limited time – from release day on Friday, January 23rd until Sunday, February 1st. So if some werewolf romance sounds good to you, grab yourself a copy, lickity-split!

Amazon UK | Amazon US | B&N | Kobo Smashwords

Goodreads

And don’t forget to leave a review for a chance to enter in J.A. Belfield’s giveaway, in which you could win a $10 Amazon gift card and an e-copy of “Eternal”, the sequel novella to “Instinct”.

A Book’s First Breath

If you’ve read my latest Wilderhark Tale (or snuck a preview of the next installment in the series), you know I love me some fantastic elementals. For that reason, the opening story in upcoming fantasy anthology “The Toll of Another Bell” struck a particular chord with me.

For my stop on the “Toll” blog tour, I have the pleasure of presenting an interview with that story’s creator. Give it up, readers all, for Jodi L. Milner, author of “Breath”!

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Me: Regale us with the tale of your decision to submit to Xchyler Pub’s fantasy anthology. Did you have the idea for “Breath” in mind beforehand, or did you craft it especially for the contest’s theme: “Out of This World… True Story”?

Jodi: “Breath” was one of those stories that flowed out of the ether back in 2013. I had to write it down but then didn’t know what to do with it. When I saw Xchyler’s call for entries for their fantasy line I felt it was worth a try, and I’m super glad I did. Being part of the X team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing career.

Me: Which of your story’s characters is your favorite? …shows up most clearly in your head? …was easiest/most difficult to write?

Jodi: Wow, this is tricky. Each of my characters represents one of the world’s creative elements, earth, wind, water, fire, and life. If forced to pick, I’d say my favorite of the bunch is Terran, the earth guardian. He’s the strong silent type, and I find those very appealing. The most fun to write were the twins, Ventus and Aquata, the air and water guardians. Fauna, the main character was the hardest to write because I felt enormous pressure to make her emotional responses feel authentic.

Me: Your own contribution aside, which of the stories from “The Toll of Another Bell” did you most enjoy reading?

Jodi: Again, that’s tough. Each story is so very different that it would be unfair to select a favorite. In this anthology you can find everything from whimsy to horror, and so many different facets in between. The writing is excellent (if I’m allowed to judge) and reading through its pages is a journey that will not soon be forgotten.

Me: Is “Breath” your debut published work?

Jodi: Yes, “Breath” is my first baby to grow wings and take flight and it has been so thrilling that I can’t wait to publish again.

Me: Whilst creeping on one of your blogs, I saw you’ve got a trilogy planned – the Stonebearer Series. What can you tell us about that? ^^

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Jodi: I think most authors have that one project in the background that they always keep working at with hopes that one day their talent will grow to match the ambition and scope required to do it justice. The Stonebearer Series is mine.  It is my first serious attempt at writing an epic fantasy novel series and hopefully one day I’ll feel it’s ready to be published as well.  The story itself is wrapped around a world where a secret society of immortal magic users is challenged by a demon who threatens to push it into extinction.

Author Bio:

Jodi Milner lives among the most epic vistas of the Rocky Mountains in Utah and uses them for inspiration when writing fantasy. When not shepherding her children, she dreams of magic and getting a good night’s sleep. She’s published fiction and poetry in the online literary magazine Soft Whispers.

Website | Blog | Facebook Twitter Google + | Goodreads |LinkedIn Pinterest

Jodi L. Milner, one talent of many (including yours truly) featured in “The Toll of Another Bell”!

For my thoughts on the full anthology, click the pic!

^ For my thoughts on the full anthology, click the pic! ^

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The book is currently up for preorder! There’s a tour-wide giveaway happening here and now, and the anthology’s Release Party is this Saturday; I hope to see you all there for the fun and games!

“Never Never” Say Never!

As stated at the beginning of the year, my general intention for this blog’s schedule is to post only twice a week. But of course, my general motto for my 26th year of life is “I do what I want”, meaning I’m wide open to spontaneity. So when I came across a call for bloggers interested in joining a cover reveal for an upcoming Peter Pan retelling, I figured why not offer to join in? I’m as fascinated by Pan as the next child averse to growing up!

All that to say, you’ve got an extra blog post coming to you today, Ever On Wordians! And here’s the main event:

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James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.

Title: Never Never
Author: Brianna Shrum
Release Date: September 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Feeling Hooked*? Add “Never Never” on Goodreads!

*(Hey, I made it all the way through my “Toll of Another Bell” review post without a single bell pun. I think I’ve earned the use of one lame joke.)

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And now, a bit about the author that I’ve “never never” met, but wish all the best with her coming novel. ^_^

Author Bio:

Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband, two boys, and two big, floppy hound dogs. She thinks chai tea is proof of magic in the world, and loves all things kissy, magical, and strange. She’d totally love to connect with you. You can find her saying ridiculous things on Twitter @briannashrum

What say you, readers? Think this looks like a book you’d enjoy? ^^

A Read for the Archives

This past November was notable for being the first NaNoWriMo in which I not only wrote like a maniac, I did it while also reading through a stack library books. No, I don’t know what I was thinking; yes, I’m mighty pleased for having broken through personal boundaries like an ever-lovin’ boss.

Now that NaNo and “Sun’s Rival” Launch Week are behind me, I can finally start thinking about writing up some reviews, such as this.

The Book: “The Archived (The Archived #1)” by Victoria Schwab.

Genre: Paranormal YA

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Blurb: Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what she once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My Thoughts: There are books I enjoy. There are books that excite me. And ever so rarely, there is a book where reading it feels like home.

Reading “The Archived” was home.

I think it’s mostly thanks to the prose. Schwab wrote in such a way that pretty much every phrase felt like it just belonged; the kind of writing that reads so easy, you wonder at the amounts of work that had to have gone into the making of the magic.

Of course, in matters of voice, I must give due credit to the speaker – in this case, Mackenzie Bishop. Her telling of the tale held me engaged from start to end, transporting me to and from remembered moments with the grandfather who mentored her and her present life as a Keeper. She finds herself in a challenging position that only gets tougher as the story goes on, and she handles it humanly, full of brave intentions and of choices good and bad.

The Archive itself is a fascinating place, more of a mystery than even Mac at first knows to suspect. (Hats off to Schwab for dreaming up such a premise!) On the other side of things is the normal life she tries to keep separate from her secret job – if getting to live in a cool old hotel counts as officially normal. Also in the almost-too-cool-for-normal category is Wesley, a fun personality in guyliner whom I, for one, would be pleased to make a friend of mine.

As the plot goes on, stakes raise, enigmas intensify, and dangers compound, until the next thing I know, it’s two in the morning, and shut up, bedtime, I’m read— HOLY WOW, I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING, OH NO (in a “yay for shocking revelations” sort of way)!

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Schwab had me at “Vicious”, and “The Archived” gripped me more tightly still. I’ve read a decent number of books, over the course of 2014, and this novel may well tie for favorite. (Sharing the spot with “The Dream Thieves”.) If/when I’ve got post-Christmas book money, this one’s going to have a place on my shelf.

Such are my thoughts on the book. Have any of your own? — on this, or any favorite read of yours from over the course of 2014? Share below!

SUN’S RIVAL Storyboard

Launch Week for “The Sun’s Rival (Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales)” continues today with a special treat.

Some of you may know, while others may be surprised to learn, that I’ve long harbored the dream of becoming an animator. Blame it on a lifetime love of Disney classics. While, alas, there’s little chance of me going out to develop those skills anytime soon (writing and publishing being my full-time gig, for the foreseeable future), I have taken a stab at one small piece of the animation process: Storyboarding*.

*Storyboard. Noun. A panel or series of panels on which a set of sketches is arranged depicting consecutively the important changes of a scene and action in a series of shots (as for a film, television show, or commercial).**

**Sing hey for the insertion of dictionary definitions! Talk about an Ever On Word throwback!

So here now, for your visual pleasure, is my best attempt to capture a tiny snippet from my newest novella. Enjoy, and then stick around for further Launch Week announcements. ^_^

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Thanks, Your Highnessness Laraspur and Ionquin, for posing for me. X3

In other business, let’s give a big hand to Emma Michaels, Elena “Eve” Jacob, Rewan Tremethick, Michelle Proulx, Kendra Conine, and Anna “Emaginette” Simpson for hosting me on the “Sun’s Rival” Launch Week Blog Tour! (More tour stops to come; stay tuned!) The tour-wide Rafflecopter giveaway is still running, with 5 lovely prizes awaiting 5 lucky winners.

And let’s not forget about Giveaway #2, the full details of which can be found here. …well, not the full details. As I’ve said before, there’s still the Secret Prize to announce. And that prize is… a print of the sketchbook page containing the artwork of the “Sun’s Rival” storyboard above!

So, what are you waiting for? Enter away! And if you haven’t yet, be sure to order your own copy of “The Sun’s Rival (Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales)!”

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