The Second Star to the Right (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 22)

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

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

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

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

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

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘The Second Star to the Right’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a backdrop of twilight over a jewel-bright lagoon, the vaguely macabre shadow of a rock formation depicted in the distance. Prop trees and ferns suggestive of a jungle frame the stage on both ends, with our players entering stage right – Will Scarlet as the Mad Hatter, and Annabelle Gray and Sir Wilbur Lamb from INSPIRED following, body-switched, right behind.]

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: This place is lovely! But where exactly is it?

Will/Hatter: No idea, and no clue. But if the Shortcut to Everywhere brought us here, then Jack’s spirit must be, too.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle [peering around, then pointing ]: The only thing obviously suggestive of death is that rocky place, out there. Or am I the only one who thinks it looks basically like a skull?

Nope, not just you. It does.
Nope, not just you. It does.

Voice from Stage Right: Of course it does.

[From the jungle greenery steps a “Stone Kingdom”-era Princess Rosalba of Denebdeor. She wears a fringed dress of sand-colored suede and colorful beadwork, her long hair hanging in a pair of braids before either shoulder and decorated with swan feathers. She bears a scepter-like spear.]

Rosalba [cont. ]: Why else would it bear the name “Skull Rock”?

Will/Hatter: Jack! Is it you?

[Will bounds across the stage, arms flung open for a hug, but an imperious thrust of Rosalba’s empty hand halts him.]

Rosalba: Another move toward me, strange hatted man, and my spear will know your innermost parts. I am Tiger Lily, Princess of Neverland. No one must ever touch me, on pain of death.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur [with a gallant bow ]: Your Highness.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: Neverland! Sure, I’ll buy that. It’s got fairies and Lost Boys, so why not a lost fairytale soul?

Will/Hatter: Not to mention the whole Peter Pan connection.

Rosalba/Tiger Lily [hand placed reverently to heart ]: Ah, brave Peter. Valiant Pan. He is the sun and the moon and the stars. But he has not been seen here for many a moon.

Will/Hatter: That’s all right. It’s not him we’ve come to see. We’re looking for his son, Jack Snow. Or rather, what’s left of him after the Antichristmas Wolf made off in his body. Could you tell us where to find him? We – and the North Pole – would be much in your debt.

Rosalba/Tiger Lily: The sun never says to the moon, “You owe me.” It is nothing for me to show you what you seek. He is there. [points with the spear to a diamond-bright light high on the sky backdrop ] The second evening star to the right.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: A noble place for so noble a spirit, to be sure. But we cannot afford to let him so remain. Have we your permission to bear him away to his destiny, Your Highness?

Rosalba/Tiger Lily: I rule the land, not the sky. Do what you must, if you can.

Will/Hatter [with a smile-like grimace ]: I can. But it’ll hurt. Apologies, Princess.

[With that, he taps Rosalba on the shoulder. Without hesitation, she rams her spear in and out of his middle. Annabelle and Sir Wilbur cringe, expressions nauseated, while Rosalba stalks away into the jungle with a highly offended air.]

Will/Hatter [voice a raspy grunt and pained giggle ]: Here we go again. [slumps to the ground, smoke billowing from his mouth ]

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: And here’s hoping this works. [turns to the sky, calling out ]

Star light, star bright, second star upon the right:

I wish you may, I wish you might take on the form left open wide.

[The star glows brighter by the moment, sending the smoke of the Shadow hastening away, lest it be by light destroyed. Annabelle and Sir Wilbur turn away from the glare, and just for a blink, the stage is too flooded with light to be seen. When it dims back to normal, the second star is gone, Will stirs on the ground, and Annabelle and Sir Wilbur startle back from one another.]

Annabelle: Hey! You’re you!

Sir Wilbur: As are you!

Will/Hatter [in as Jack Snow-like a voice as you can get without the speaker being actually Allyn-a-Dale ]: Consider that one a freebie for wishing me back to the land of the living. Tannenbaum, but my guts are sore.

Sir Wilbur [helping Will to his feet ]: Hatter’s body had to take a bit of punishment to make room for you.

Annabelle: And of course now his Shadow’s flown off who-knows-where.

Will/Jack: Worrying as that is, the matter will have to keep ‘til later. First things first: There’s Christmas to save.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience member Miranda McNeff,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘lovely’ and ‘the sun never says to the moon, “You owe me”’.”

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

In Which the Interactive Theatre Troupe Presents Wilderhark in a Nutshell (Launch Week, Day 4)

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

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

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

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

“At least,” says Will, “that’s what we usually do. But in case it’s somehow escaped your notice, this is a very special week on the blog – specifically, it’s Launch Week for our author’s latest published work, “The Seventh Spell (Book Three of The Wilderhark Tales”. Obviously, we’re all quite keen for our audience to buy the book. But, y’know, it’s been a few months since Books One and Two hit the market. Could be some of the readers’ memories are a bit rusty on the story that led up this, eh? Never fear! That’s where we come in!”

“So everyone, make yourselves comfortable,” says Allyn, “as we now present to you: ‘Once Upon a Recap: The Wilderhark Tales in Review”!

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a cozy library setting, spotlit far off on stage right. In an easy chair beside a faux fireplace sits Little John, non-prescription reading spectacles perched on his nose, and a grand gilded storybook held open in his lap.]

Little John: Our tale begins in Wilderhark Forest, where Doctor Villem Deere discovers Sula in a bear trap.

[The light on Little John dims as, further across the stage, a second light comes up on a woodland backdrop, before which kneels Will Scarlet in a quietly distinguished tweed jacket as he releases Marion’s leg from a steel-toothed clamp.]

Swan Prince Cover, E-book

Will/Villem [with soothing calm ]: It’s all right. I’m Doctor Deere, and I’m here to help you. Can you tell me your name?

Marion/Sula [shakily ]: Sula.

Will/Villem: All right, Sula. Now, how did this unfortunate accident happen?

Marion/Sula: I can’t tell you that.

Will/Villem: Why not?

Marion/Sula: Because secrets.

Will/Villem [with a subtle frown ]: Hmm. An answer both unforthcoming and ungrammatical. I deem it probable that the consequences of your reticence will be a novella full of relationships, both business and personal, built upon false impressions.

[The lighting switches, plunging the forest scene into darkness as Little John’s library reclaims the focus.]

Little John: There’s also a prince who, magically enough, is sometimes a swan. But the book’s cover told you that much. [flips the massive storybook’s page ] Speaking of royalty, Villem and Sula have been promoted to king and queen in the sequel. Their luck with magic hasn’t improved much, as evidenced by the curse unleased on the kingdom by Princess Rosalba. Fortunately, tailor Edgwyn Wyle offers his assistance.

[Light switches over to the stage space in front of a stone wall backdrop. While Will and Sula pose unmoving, as if enchanted into statuary, Guinevere pulls Robin Hood in through a prop window, he in colorful garb to rival a Will Scarlet ensemble, complete with a feathered scarlet hat.]

Stone Kingdom Cover, front

Guinevere/Rosalba: I need to get out of this tower so I can find my prince.

Robin/Edgwyn: Ah, yes, the prince. You’ve mentioned him. Are you in want of any prince in particular?

Guinevere/Rosalba: Yes, the one I need to break the enchantment.

Robin/Edgwyn [cheerfully ]: Well, if you could use a friend to put all his time and resources into furthering your quest while accidentally falling in love with you, I’m at your service!

Guinevere/Rosalba: That is a most agreeable offer, thank you, Edgwyn.

[The light switches back to Little John.]

Little John: …Which brings us to “The Seventh Spell”, when the titular enchantment throws everyone into a bigger dilemma than ever before, one they’ll need a miracle to put right.

[Allyn-a-Dale leaps into the library in professional array; though his usual somber blues have been traded for sunnier sky shades and his typical brimmed hat replaced with a jaunty beret, his lute is right where it belongs, strapped in place on his back.]

Allyn [brightly ]: Did somebody call for a minstrel?

Little John: I said “miracle”.

Allyn [with a breezy wave of the hand ]: A minstrel, a miracle… One and the same

When the marvelous Gant-o’-the-Lute makes the claim!

[laughs ] Always wished I could be him. Dream role: Attained!

Little John [closing the book ]: Consider yourselves all caught up.

<<<>>>

Seventh Spell Cover, front

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to our friends from Wilderhark,” says Allyn, “for allowing us to portray them and so brutally abridge their tales.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! Also, make sure to pick up your copies of ‘The Seventh Spell (Book Three of the Wilderhark Tales)’ via any of the following fine venues: Amazon (paperback) / Amazon (Kindle) / Barnes & Noble (Nook) / CreateSpace (paperback) And oy, leave some reviews, will you? Online buyers love a testimonial!”

“In related news,” Allyn continues, “a round of congratulations to the third and fourth winners of the ‘Seventh Spell’ Launch Week Giveway, Emerald Barnes and Kim Matura, each of whom have won a secret ‘Seventh Spell’ story illustration as drawn by the author herself. Good for the pair of them. Keep those entries coming, everyone, as there are still three days’ worth of prizes to award!”

“Until next time, friends!” says Will, with a salute. “Will and Allyn out!”

How to Enter the “Seveth Spell” Launch Week Giveaway

Every mention/link to the giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or blog = +1 (You can do this multiple times daily. Feel free to go nuts!)

An addition of “The Seventh Spell” to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf = +1 (If you’ve already read and rated/reviewed on Goodreads, you’re covered. ^-^)

Every comment on a “Seventh Spell” Launch Week post = +3 (Launch Week means new posts almost every day, so you can really rack up the points here!)

Every purchase of an e-book copy of “The Seventh Spell” = +3

Every purchase of a paperback copy of “The Seventh Spell” = +7

Your chances to win will accumulate over the seven days of the giveaway (didn’t win the first prize? You’ve still got your rollover entries for the prizes to come, and you can continue earning more), so the sooner you jump on board, the better your odds of winning!

The Prizes

#1 = Autographed print of a portrait of Millyanna (drawn by me). Congrats, Michelle!

#2 = Autographed print of a portrait of Viralei (drawn by me). Congrats, Miranda!

#3 = Autographed print of a surprise “Seventh Spell” scene illustration (drawn by me). Congrats, Emerald!

#4 = Autographed print of another surprise “Seventh Spell” scene illustration (drawn by me). Congrats, Kim!

#5 = Seven selected chapters of the “The Seventh Spell”, with author commentary!

#6 = Seven selected chapters of the “The Seventh Spell”, with CHARACTER commentary!

#7 = The Epic Win of the giveaway. 3 winners get to select any one of the first six prizes they like, and 1 of the three will receive my very first paperback proof copy of “The Seventh Spell”, autographed.

“Suspense” or “Princess in Waiting”

Eleven days left until the release of my second self-published fairytale novella, “The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales)”! Only eleven / eleven whole days, omigaaaaurgh, hurry up already!

To help us all better handle the “pleasant excitement as to a decision or outcome”, today I am pleased to share a sample chapter from the book – an excerpt which, coincidentally, has all to do with a countdown between the now and the fearfully exciting things to come.

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~ Princess in Waiting ~

It sometimes felt to Rosalba as if she must have spent those few, eventful minutes wide awake and miraculously cognizant for a baby less than a month old.

She could quote every word the uninvited witch spoke, mimic every expression on the faces of her parents and their guests. But she knew full well this was only because she had heard the story of that fateful day almost as often, over her lifetime, as she had her own name.

In her very early childhood, the tale had frightened her. Every time she heard it repeated, she would cry and cower in her nurse’s apron, declaring, “Rosa’ba no want to reach fisteen! Never, never, never!”

As she grew a little older, she began to see the bragging rights that came part and parcel with having been as good as cursed on her christening day. “Oh, yes,” she would say, nodding solemnly at her playmates. “I imagine that something quite dreadful will happen to me. Perhaps I’ll be abducted by a giant, who will force me to be his bride. Or maybe I’ll be turned into a mermaid, and will live in the lake behind the castle for the rest of my days. Don’t worry – I shall see to it that I’m given a splendidly big party on my fifteenth birthday, so you’ll all have the chance to watch whatever happens, right up close. It will give you something to talk to your grandchildren about, anyway.”

By the time she reached fourteen, some of the old fear began to spring up anew.

Only a year left, she would think.

Then, Only half-a-year left.

Only three months left.

Only three weeks!

And she would worry again about what might befall her.

“Oh, heavens…” she gasped at one point. “I hope that madwoman doesn’t make me bald!”

For while Rosalba strove not to let herself be carried away by useless vanity, the idea of her looks being spoiled by a witch out of sheer spite struck her as cruel and unnecessary.

She took pleasure in sharing her father’s willowy form and self-possessed countenance, her mother’s resolute mouth and chin, as well as her eyes, an elusive gray-green more subtle than sage. Above all, she was proud of her hair – so long, it reached nearly to her knees; a brown so fair, it was almost wheat-gold.

She thought she would rather be a mermaid wedded to a giant than lose her wonderful hair.

Mermaid plus Giant less than Bald

At last, in due time, the sun rose on Rosalba’s fifteenth birthday, and the kingdom held its breath.

Since the night before, a dozen armed guards stood outside the princess’s bedchamber, and another half-dozen stood just inside it.

She was allowed no visitors save for the king and queen themselves, who did visit, quite often, just to reassure themselves that nothing had changed in the three minutes or less since they’d last visited.

She was not permitted to eat so much as a mouthful of food which had not first been tasted by at least two servants selected at random. If she so much as felt a sneeze coming, her mother would grab hold of her so tightly that sneezes became the least of the princess’s worries, paling in comparison to the possibility of fainting for lack of breathing room.

It was, without question, the longest and most intensely miserable day of Rosalba’s life.

“If the witch’s intention was that my curse be endless hours of overprotective torture,” she said crossly, following the fifth crushing embrace of this sort, “I suppose we can surmise who is having the last laugh!”

Nor was the ordeal to end anytime soon. When anything failed to happen to Rosalba on the first day of her fifteenth year, the king ordered that similar precautions be taken on the second day; and then the third. In all, an entire month passed in this fashion, and still there was no sign of any witch or any curse.

At the end of this month, security was gradually allowed to relax. The guards outside Rosalba’s bedchamber were reduced to four, and the guards inside the room were reassigned elsewhere.

In another week, she was permitted to leave her room for an hour or so at a time, under the four remaining guards’ escort. A week more, and she was free to roam anywhere on the castle grounds for as long as she wished, with only two guards trailing nearby. And by the end of the second month of her fifteenth year, she was only assigned one guard, and then only when she left the castle walls.

It was still a bit more of a nuisance than Rosalba would have liked (especially as she could tell that the food served to her was still being picked over), but it was such a vast improvement over the previous month, she withheld her complaints.

With the panic over and the threat seeming more insubstantial with every passing day, the king and queen turned their attention to a matter which had hitherto been rather far down on their list of necessities pertaining to their daughter: A husband.

Obviously, when there had been a reasonable doubt the princess would survive her fifteenth birthday, arranging a marriage for her had hardly been a priority. But as it now appeared she did indeed have a future ahead of her, that future needed to be looked to.

Rosalba was thrilled. Many of her childhood companions, the daughters of lesser nobles and higher-ranking servants, were already being married off, and from what Rosalba observed, the process of being wooed was an enjoyable business.

The flowers, the gifts, the love songs… If one was lucky, the secret meetings in the gardens by moonlight…

The thought of a prince of her own – plucking wildflowers for her, showering her with costly trinkets, composing poetry about her eyes and sharing the honeyed words in a whisper so the night-watchmen on the opposite side of the hedge would not hear – filled her with smiles, even as she heard the lock turn on her bedchamber door every night.

And once I am married, she would think drowsily, perhaps I will cease to be treated as a privileged prisoner.

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To be continued… on September 20th!