Scarlet’s Swan Song

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

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

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

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

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment. Now…” Allyn turns to Will, eyes narrowed. “Why is today’s skit ‘a very special ’ one?”

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Banner, Swan Prince

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

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

Aced every last final at my doctor university.

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

What’s with that Sula girl, yo?

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

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

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

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

To ignore him’s more than I can bear.

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

Swan Prince Cover, E-book

Villem: Wondering…

Sula: Wandering…

Both: By moonlight.

Villem: What answers…

Sula: What freedom…

Both: Will come with the sunrise?

Obsession, distraction, and grudging attraction in Wilderhark.

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

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

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

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

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

Will my tale end in rapture or woe?

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

All: Wondering, wandering, by moonlight.

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

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

When will what’s wrong be made right?

When what’s in the dark comes to liiight!

[Triumphant orchestral finish.]

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“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

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

“And the song?” Will prompts.

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

“Thank you very much. If you enjoyed yourselves, dear audience,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! And if you haven’t yet, consider celebrating the original Wilderhark Tale’s first full year out in the world by purchasing a copy today – through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace…whatever floats your boat – or recommending it to a friend. Until next week: Will and Allyn out!”

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

W.A.I.T. Button

“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”!

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[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.

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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.

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

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

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

Yana ID

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

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

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

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

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

Me: What is your creative process like?

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

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

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

Me: How would you describe your style?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sample” or “A Girl in the Woods”

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

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

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~ A Girl in the Woods ~

 

Doctor Villem Deere was not easily surprised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What were you running from?”

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

“A bear.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Sixteen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To be continued… on May 31st!