The Ballad of Rosie and Me

Once upon a time, a girl desired a lute.

She couldn’t remember what exactly had placed this longing within her heart or when. She assumed her minstrel characters were at least in part to blame, since their own skill on the lute was nothing short of legendary on multiple plains of reality. High goodness knew she would have given much to be one of them when she grew up. (Whenever that happened. Keep in mind, this girl was already in her twenties.)

For years, the girl told herself she would reward herself with the purchase of a lute just as soon as she published her younger minstrel’s book. She had even begun setting some money aside into a lute fund for that sunshiny day down the road. But then, one day, and almost of the blue, it sank home: Life is short. Seize the day. There was no good reason at all that she shouldn’t buy her lute now. So that is precisely what the girl did.

And that girl… *solemn nods* …was me.

Me and my Lute, black and white triptych

And this is my lovely new 8-courser, Rosie, here all the way from the Amazon (…dot com). I about lost my mind with excitement when she arrived. The smell of her still thrills me every time I take her out to play – and that soft, full-body reverberation when the clasps on her case snap open. Tuning her is a delicate, time-consuming exercise; she loves to go flat every time I turn my back, silly girl. Ah, but then the music we make together.

Me and my Lute 08

Because most of the songs I want to play upon her are my minstrels’ compositions – and therefore, not to be found in any lute songbooks around here – I’m having to teach myself to play them by ear. And I thought trying to play piano by ear was rough going! But if I weren’t the tenacious sort, most of you reading this right now wouldn’t even know I exist, so I keep at it, more or less patiently struggling to get it right. For the first while, I made a point of practicing every day.

Then the high G string broke.

Along with my heart.

Rosie was in her case at the time. I was minding my business across the room when I heard the twang. With trepidation, I checked to see what may have caused the sound, and alas! Agony! Woe!

A blue day for me and my baby.
A blue day for me and my baby.

To my surprise (I guess this whole “getting it” thing, with him, is more than a one-time fluke?), it was Gant-o’-the-Lute who proved the greatest comfort in my throes of grief, assuring me that a snapped string was no great tragedy. “A broken string is not a broken lute,” said he, his gentle (and technically imaginary) touch upon my back a balm to my distress and disillusionment. “Take heart. It happens to the best of us. Which I would know, being the best of us.”

Thanks, minstrel mentor.
Thanks, minstrel mentor.

Of secondary comfort was the fact that I could still play most of my self-taught songs on the remaining strings. And on the side of silver linings, I got to come out of this episode feeling like a boss when I restrung the high G myself (once my Amazon order of replacements strings arrived).

So all’s well that ends well. At last I know the joy of joining in sweet union with the instrument of my heart – much like a young Jackillen Gant in “The Sky-Child”. And for those of you eager for a chance to hear what Rosie and I sound like together, I’ve recorded a video of us performing a Gant-o’-the-Lute original – “On Adventure” (as featured in “The Song Caster”). Click the pic below to view the vid on my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page. I hope you enjoy my minstrel debut. ^_^

On Adventure Vid

Book Spine Poetry Prophecy

Word on the ‘Net is April’s been National Poetry Month – i.e., the perfect excuse to finally get around to posting this book spine poem I composed back in February, inspired as I was by the Alexa Loves Books-hosted 2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon.

Some of you may recall the last time I shared such a poem (during the 2014 Love-a-Thon, as it happens.) Proud as I was of that piece of art, I do believe I like this one even better. Probably because it strikes me as sounding like some epic, ancient prophecy. Complete with rhymes. ^o^


Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 1

One more day on the Isle of Sound and Wonder inspired the Seventh Spell:

Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 2

Transparent ink. The violet hour. The toll of another bell.

Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 3

The Song Caster unhinged the door in the mountain; splintered the spirit war.

Spine Poetry Prophecy, Line 4

Vicious, marvelous spirit’s end – mistborn legends and lore.


This lyrical omen brought to you by…

One More Day by L.S. Murphy and others (including yours truly) – available here

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer – my review here

Inspired by Danielle E. Shipley – available here

The Seventh Spell (Book Three of The Wilderhark Tales) by Danielle E. Shipley – available here

Transparent by Natalie Whipple – my review here

Ink (Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun – found here on Goodreads

The Violet Hour (The Violet Hour #1) by Whitney A. Miller – found here on Goodreads

The Toll of Another Bell: A Fantasy Anthology by yours truly and others – available here

The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales) by Danielle E. Shipley – available here

Unhinged (Splintered #2) by A.G. Howard – my review here

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet – my review here

Splintered (Splintered #1) by A.G. Howard – my review here

The Spirit War (Eli Monpress #4) by Rachel Aaron – my review here

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – my review here

Marvelous (The Books of Marvella #1) by Travis Thrasher – found here on Goodreads

Spirit’s End (Eli Monpress #5) by Rachel Aaron – my review here

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – found here on Goodreads

Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions by yours truly and others – available here

Got any cool book spine poems of your own – oracular or otherwise? I do hope you’ll share!

How to Make Characters Fall in Love

I can see it now: A mob of angry characters jabbing their fingers at this page and demanding, “What kind of a title is that?!

Okay, maybe “make” is too incendiary a word choice. How about, “How to Guide Characters into Love”?

Better,” they might concede with a grumble.

Alright then. Before we get into the “how”, we’ve got to talk about the “why”. Why bother putting any real thought into this? Why not just jump in with something along the lines of…

Once upon a time, Boy met Girl, and each became obsessively devoted to the other on sight.

That’s a little something they call “insta-love”, and while it was a technique par for the course in fairytales of old, a lot of readers today won’t go for that.

A song at first sight is a great start, but not much of a middle and end.
A song at first sight is a great start, but not much of a middle and end.

They want to know why Boy and Girl love each other. What do they see in each other, and how was that discovery made? “One look in the princess’s eyes, and he fell straight into the depths of goodness in her heart” cannot be the go-to. We need more than a look. We need…

Conversation. You want characters to develop emotional attachments among themselves? Have them talk to each other!

Have them bond over hopes, dreams, and fears, the mutual sense of feeling trapped in their current situations, and reminiscence about that time they ran that impromptu apple heist in the marketplace.
Have them bond over hopes, dreams, and fears, the mutual sense of feeling trapped in their current situations, and reminiscence about the time they ran that impromptu apple heist in the marketplace.

What people say to one another (and, often enough, what they don’t say) can reveal a lot about them – their personalities, opinions, and sense of humor, their likes, dislikes, views on life’s big questions. One meaningful dialogue between characters can make all the impact in the world on their feelings toward the other guy. And the more they talk to each other, the longer and more twisted of an emotional journey you can take them on.

“He said this? We’re soul mates!”

“He said that? Ugh, I can’t stand him!”

“Wow, the way she phrased that… Be still, my heart!”

“I don’t know what she’s going on about, but sheesh, what a total turnoff.”

“Not gonna lie, I wanted his head on a platter … until that beautiful, humorous, heartfelt apology. *swoony sigh*”

And the best part? All those hypothetical quotes don’t apply only to the characters doing the talking; the eavesdropping readers get to experience the ups and downs, too!

Environmental Aid. …Or, as Sebastian put it in “The Little Mermaid”, you’ve got to create da mood. (And that crab really had his work cut out for him since, with Ariel’s voice gone, conversation with Eric was drastically impaired.)

Kiss the Girl GIF

While it’s not always necessary to throw your characters into an atmospheric song number (though, as readers of “The Song Caster” and any other minstrel-infested story of mine will come to learn, a song number is totally an option!), there are environmental cheats storytellers can perform to turn up the sense of romance in the air. Stick the characters in inspiring settings – a lovely garden, perhaps, or underneath the stars, somewhere with a breathtaking view… Places like these can work on both conscious and subconscious levels to put the characters in a dreamy or passionate state of mind.

Speaking of passions, take those of the characters into account! Not everyone’s into gardens and stars, but if Boy’s wild about marshlands or Girl’s captivated by some old semi-haunted shack of a cabin or they’re both intrigued by historical ruins or iffy back alleys, these unconventional locations may stimulate their feelings far better than somewhere more generic.

Work Smarter, Not Harder. Want Boy and Girl to fall in love? You can make it leagues easier on everyone if you put in some thought during the story’s planning stages about what kind of person they’d be attracted to. Be a savvy matchmaker. What traits do they admire and value? Do they have a “type”? Which actions can you see turning them on and off?


Remember, not everybody’s looking for the same sort of guy/gal. Plenty of people aren’t looking at all! A character actively against falling in love will need to be handled differently than one who dreams every night of True Love’s Kiss – handled differently by both their author and by the other half the author wants to pair them with. The more strategic you can be from the beginning about how to orchestrate this romance, the smoother sailing you’re likely to have.

Don’t Force It. Truth is, short of a love potion or something (which can be a valid plot device, though I’d use it sparingly, were I you), the angry character mob is right: You really can’t make them fall in love. You can set everything up beautifully, but if they’re not feeling it, they’re not feeling it, and trying to play it off like they are when they aren’t would be a crime against truth in fiction. So listen to your characters’ hearts on this one. If a pairing’s meant to be, true love will find a way.

Love Will Find a Way

A Song’s Conclusion (“Song Caster” Launch Week, Closing Remarks)

Launch Week for “The Song Caster” has come to an end, but we have a few orders of business before we can call this thing a wrap.

First, an announcement of the three Grand Prize Day winners in my giveaway.

Congratulations to Emerald Barnes and Chelsea de la Cruz,

who will receive their choice of any two postcard designs pictured below, in addition to seven selected chapters of “The Song Caster”, with commentary from yours truly and Gant-o’-the-Lute!

Congrats also to Alyson Grauer,

who has won a set of all four postcards, plus a signed proof paperback of “The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales)”! Huzzah for you three, as well as all the previous winners of this past week.

''Song Caster'' prize postcards

Next on the agenda, I would like to extend special thanks to a pair of pals who were good enough to host my minstrel on their blogs during the celebration. On the blog of Kimberly Kay (an “anthology sister” of mine in the “One More Day” short story collection), you’ll find Lute’s telling guest post, “The Author’s Power, and Mine”. And on the blog of my writing bestie Tirzah Duncan (author of “Cry of the Nightbird”, that other novella I’ve been advising you to purchase, ‘cause it’s awesome), Lute bared his heart in an interview with Tirzah’s Thief Lord, Syawn. So if you’ve not read these posts yet – or if you have, but it was so much fun the first time that you’re up for a re-read – click on over and say hey to the gracious hostesses.

…Oh, and Will Scarlet would like kudos for his special efforts to pimp “The Song Caster” during his Interactive Theatre sketch on Saturday. So thank you, Will, and Allyn, too, and all the players you’ve roped into your onstage shenanigans, God bless ‘em all.

Song Caster Cover, resize

Thanks also, of course, to all you readers who’ve come around and shared in the Launch Week fun – which would, I’ll have you know, be zero fun without you. Thanks to everyone who’s already purchased the book (via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or CreateSpace) and been spreading the word, which I hope you’ll continue to do even well beyond this week’s end. After all, “The Song Caster”s adventure in the great, wide world has just begun! If you haven’t yet, I’d be super-duper grateful if, following your read of the tale, you’d leave a review on any or all of the book’s retail sites. Just a few lines of public praise (and/or criticism) are a huge favor to we author types, for which our appreciation knows no bounds.

I think that’s the long and short of it! I’m off now to run myself ragged on a list of other writing projects, including an “Outlaws of Avalon” companion novella for Camp NaNoWriMo July, and… ahem, other awesome stuff. Keep your eyes open for word on that, as well as the next book in the Wilderhark Tales, which I expect to have ready for you sometime late this fall. My piece now spoken, I bid you all farewell, and happy reading!

Gant-o’-the-Lute’s Adventure Companion Compatibility Quiz (“Song Caster” Launch Week)

Caution: He doesn’t mince words. His words mince you.

So, you wish to adventure with Gant-o’-the-Lute?

Let’s find out if you’re a companion to suit.

 <> ~ <> ~ <>

1) Sleeping indoors bores me. I propose we bed down on the hills tonight. Are you the outdoorsy type?

  • A. Yes, I love the outdoors! All those wide-open spaces!
  • B. I can’t say I’ve been out much. Sounds like it could be interesting, though.
  • C. I’d rather stay in.

2) I daresay we’ll do much on this journey you’ve never attempted before. Are you confident?

  • A. Why wouldn’t I be? I can tackle anything!
  • B. Reasonably so. Goodness knows a little determined effort can go a long way.
  • C. I’ll tend to expect the worst while holding out a weak hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

3) Of course, even confidence can only take you so far. This could get dangerous for non-extraordinary humans like yourself. Are you brave?

  • A. Daring as they come!
  • B. I can be, at need.
  • C. Not so much.

4) It will be just you and me for some miles to go. I know I’m enjoyable company, but what of you? How’s your disposition?

  • A. All sunny enthusiasm and exclamation points!
  • B. Pretty even-keeled, I’d say.
  • C. A bit on the gloomy side, honestly.

5) Hmm, two roads diverge in Wilderhark Forest – one well-traveled, the other unknown. I’m inclined to explore the latter. Do you like new things?

  • A. Yaaaay, new things!
  • B. I’ll try most things once, I guess.
  • C. Let’s stick with the old and familiar, please.

6) Oops. That didn’t go quite as planned. We should run. Immediately. Are you fast?

  • A. Like the wind!
  • B. I am now.
  • C. No, I’m not, which is why I told you not to do that, and now I’m going to DIE!

7) Well, we survived! Ready to do it all over again?

  • A. Born ready! Let’s go!
  • B. Give me a minute or month to recover, then we’ll talk.
  • C. Please tell me you’re joking.

If you answered mostly “A”s = Skies above, you’re more excited about this than I am, aren’t you? Well, no tight-held leashes here, eager pup. Off we run! Just try not to do anything so stupid I can’t save you from yourself.

If you answered mostly “B”s = You seem calmly prepared to face whatever comes your way. An admirable quality in a traveling companion. I think we’ll balance each other well. Let’s put it to the test!

If you answered mostly “C”s = Dear me, I’ve never seen anyone more badly in need of adventure. High time someone pushed you well outside of your comfort zone – which shouldn’t be hard, your bubble’s so small. You’re coming with me. Ah-ah! Not a word! You’ll thank me later.

Share your quiz results in the comments below, and you’ll be rewarded with an entry in the “Song Caster” Launch Week Giveaway, of which the Grand Prize winners will be announced tomorrow! For full giveaway rules, go here. To purchase the fantastic new book at the heart of it all, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or CreateSpace will provide.

And now, to announce the winners of Days 5 and 6. Congratulations to

J. Keller Ford and Emerald Barnes!

J for Jenny, you get your choice of any two postcard designs pictured below. And Emerald, no need for you to make that tough choice, because all four designs are yours to enjoy!

''Song Caster'' prize postcards

Thanks for participating in the raffle, and everyone remember that this is the **last day to earn entries** before I draw the Grand Prizewinning names tomorrow. So share the giveaway news, leave those Wilderhark Tales reviews, and if you haven’t bought your copies of “The Song Caster” (of Tirzah Duncan’s “Cry of the Nightbird”) yet, carpe diem!

(And in case any of you were wondering about my own quiz score, I managed to eke out mostly “B”s. ;D)

Peter and the Puffwolf (Scarlet’s Fairytale Spin, Act 15)

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 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.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Peter and the Puffwolf’!”


[The curtain rises on Allyn-a-Dale as Jack Snow (bearing a shining sword), Will Scarlet as Peter “The Woodsman” Pan, Marion Hood as Wendy Darling-Pan, and Robin Hood as Simian the winged monkey, all running like mad on a treadmill embedded on the floor, stage right. The dim lighting flickers on the stony backdrop behind them, aiding in the illusion of the players’ mad dash through a subterranean space.]

Will/Woodsman [to the audience ]: Previously in our serial fairytale skit, we discovered a singing sword in an underground treasure vault.

[The sword in Allyn’s hand waves along to the voiceover of Gant-o’-the-Lute.]

Lute/Songsteel: That’s me! Songsteel, the one and only one with the power to defeat the Antichristmas Beast!

Marion/Wendy: …Or so it’s been said. We’d only just found the sword when the vault’s doors where blown down by the monster the Beast sent against us: The dreaded Puffwolf.

[A gusty howl resounds.]

Robin/Simian: So this is us, running for our lives.

Allyn/Jack: I’ve lived long enough among dwarves to know their construction tricks. Every vault, mine, and bunker they build is secretly connected to all the others. There’s a way out, if only we can stay ahead of the Puffwolf. [pauses for another howl, louder and closer than before ] …Which is sounding less likely by the moment.

Will/Woodsman [pointing ahead, where a construction scaffold has just rolled in from offstage ]: Quick, up there!

[Surging off of the treadmill, the players scramble up the scaffolding and from there to a long metal beam hanging from the ceiling – and just in time, for a noisy blast, ostensibly from the Puffwolf’s powerful lungs, blows the scaffolding down as if it were no sturdier than a house of cards. A mere moment later, adorned in a luxurious fur suit and with much baring of prosthetic fangs and claws, the Puffwolf himself stalks onto the stage, the role graciously filled by Edgwyn Wyle.]

For all that our tale’s Puffwolf is a big, bad beastie, I’m afraid I’ll always envision him like this. Blame Chelsea de la Cruz.
For all that our tale’s Puffwolf is a big, bad beastie, I’m afraid I’ll always envision him like this. Blame Chelsea de la Cruz.

Edgwyn/Puffwolf [in a deep, chilling voice you’d never expect from “The Stone Kingdom”s sweet tailor ]: Little prey, little prey, won’t you come down?

Lute/Songsteel [to a tune recognizable from “Defying Gravity” ]: No one in this land of ours, no Puffwolf that there is or was, is ever going to bring us do-o-own!

Edgwyn/Puffwolf: Then I’ll— well. [huffs ] I’ll just pace around in circles until you get too tired to keep your balance and topple down, at which point [licks lips ] I will swallow you whole. [proceeds pacing ]

Will/Woodsman: Mm, no thanks, to that. Bring it in, gang. [beckons at the others, who lean in toward his stage whisper ] Here’s the plan. I’ve got a coil of rope, see? I’ll make a noose, lower it down, catch the Puffwolf by the tail, and incapacitate him by hauling him upside down.

Marion/Wendy: Excellent. All we need is a way to keep the Puffwolf distracted while you go for his tail. Simian, go fly around the Puffwolf’s head. Get close enough that he’ll snap at you, but not so close that you’ll actually be caught.

Robin/Simian: Are you joking?! No way am I going anywhere near that creature!

Allyn/Jack: Oh, come on, don’t be worthless – you’re the only one with wings!

Will/Woodsman: But not the only one who can get the job done. Leave the distraction to me!

[Will hands his coil of rope to Marion, stands on the beam and, without further ado, throws himself into the air.]

Allyn/Jack [aghast ]: WOODSMAN, NO— [breaks off, staring wide-eyed, as a discreet harness allows Will to swoop around high over the stage ] You can fly??

Marion/Wendy [nodding confirmation ]: He can fly.

Will/Woodsman [whooping for joy ]: I can flyyy! Just like riding a bike; once Neverland’s fairies show you the knack, you never forget. Hey, Puffwolf! Betcha can’t catch me!

[As Will and Edgwyn put on a show of diving and lunging while the orchestra’s flutes and French horns go crazy with Prokofiev themes, the players on the beam slowly, slo-o-owly lower the rope’s noose toward the Puffwolf’s tail. Once the target’s caught, and with a cry of “Haul away!”, they all three jump off the back of the beam, using the captured Edgwyn rising upward as a counterweight to slow their descent. The Puffwolf howls in protest, but in vain.]

Will/Woodsman [landing by the others on the ground ]: Well-played, everyone! Now, what to do with the Puffwolf?

Marion/Wendy: Sell him to the zoo?

Will/Woodsman: No good. The forest’s Guild of Talking Animals declared zoos inhumane a decade ago. Killing’s still allowed, though. Songsteel, why don’t you show us what you can do?

Lute/Songsteel: I have been. I don’t stab, slash, and bloody things up; I sing!

Will/Woodsman [dismayed ]: Is that all?! How is that useful against a monster like the Puffwolf, to say nothing of a beast like the Antichristmas?

Lute/Songsteel: Listen and learn. I say, Puffwolf?

Edgwyn/Puffwolf [growling ]: Yes?

Lute/Songsteel: Congratulations! You’re the winner of the fictional version of the “Song Caster” Launch Week Giveaway!

Edgwyn/Puffwolf: Really? I’d known there was a raffle happening on the author’s blog, but this is the first I’ve heard of a fictional version. What have I won?

Lute/Songsteel: Why, a private concert with none other than Gant-o’-the-Lute and his magic flute! One night only, then he’s out of town and off on adventure again.

Edgwyn/Puffwolf [gasps ]: Gant-o’-the-Lute?! What luck! That minstrel is amazing!

Lute/Songsteel [audibly smug ]: Isn’t he just? But there’s one caveat, Puffwolf: Creatures who do the dark bidding of the Beast are ineligible to collect the prize. So if you swallow his enemies whole, no minstrelsong for you.

Edgwyn/Puffwolf: No, please! I won’t, I promise! Just let me hear Gant-o’-the-Lute’s flute concert! His music’s divine!

Lute/Songsteel: Very well, then. Let the Puffwolf free, people; he has a concert to attend.

[Once released, Edgwyn scampers eagerly offstage without another bit of fuss, while the remaining players stand in open-mouthed shock.]

Lute/Songsteel: And that is but one example of the power of music. Still think I’m unqualified to vanquish your enemy?

Allyn/Jack: Quite the contrary, Songsteel. [begins to smile ] I think I may have an idea how best to wield you.


“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Chelsea de la Cruz and Miranda McNeff,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the ‘Song Caster’-centric inspiration ‘the Puffwolf wins a private concert with Gant-o’-the-Lute in a raffle’ and ‘a certain troublesome flute’. Have an extra raffle point each as a reward!”

“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! And as a bonus, everyone who leaves a comment with a prompt will earn a point in that giveaway we’ve mentioned, same as Chelsea and Miranda.”

“Speaking of the giveaway,” says Allyn, “hearty congratulations to the winners of Days 3 and 4,

Nicholas Boardman and Chelsea de la Cruz!

You’ve each won a pair of postcards featuring Gant-o’-the-Lute art – the one by Tirzah Duncan, the other by Tirzah and Danielle.”

“Congrats, guys!” Will cheers. “I think that’s all of our scheduled announcements. So, ‘til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

A Question of Power (“Song Caster” Launch Week)


Song Caster Cover, resize

“Greetings, readers the world over!” says Gant-o’-the-Lute, with a sunny smile and breezy bow. “It is I, shining star of ‘The Song Caster’ – which, you’ve surely heard, officially ventured out into the world just two days past, via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. You’ve put in an order for your copies by now, yes? No? Make it so.

“Now, onto the business of the day. As part of the Launch Week celebration (which includes the ongoing giveaway explained in detail here), I’ve gathered a number of my fellow characters to ask them the all-important question the ‘Song Caster’ tale compelled me to face: What would you do if you got hold of a magic flute that could control the world? Let us start with you, Your Majesty.” He turns to Wilderhark Tale veteran Villem Deere. “How would you answer?”

Villem Deere as portraited (pretend it's a verb) by the mega-talented Yana Naumova.

“Are we to assume,” says the king, with his characteristic, doctorly sobriety, “that I am, in this hypothetical scenario, equipped with the skill to play the instrument?”

“Obviously,” says Lute. “You’d get no use out of it, otherwise.” He waves at the group. “For the sake of argument, we’ll pretend you’re all musically proficient.”

“In that case, I would then ask—”

“We actually haven’t got all day, Villem,” Queen Ursula interjects. “Don’t be a Deere about it, just say something.”

Though his cool eyes express quiet disapproval at the notion of speech before adequate consideration, Villem replies, “I would play a tune that stimulates the minds of all who hear, such that their capacity for logic and sound judgment would be heightened as far as humanity’s utmost limitations permit.”

“How perfectly reasonable,” says Lute, by which he means perfectly dull. “Ursula, what of you?”

Ursula as realized by the mega-talented Yana Naumova.

“Witches,” she says, eyes gleaming with feral glee. “A purge of all the world’s anarchwitches and their sympathizers. Here’s magic in the monarchy’s favor, for a change!”

“When you say ‘purge’,” Edgwyn Wyle says cautiously, “what sort of method do you have in mind? Elimination of their powers? Exile? Not execution, I hope?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Ursula shrugs in irritation. “Turn them all into butterflies, for all I care. I just want the rebellion put down.”

“Mm. Well, I suppose there are worse things to be than a butterfly.”

Edgwyn as realized by my dream-Wilderhark artist, Yana Naumova.

“Well I know it,” Ursula rumbles.

“Since you’re in the conversation, now,” says Lute to Edgwyn, “what would you do with the magic flute’s power?”

“Oh! Well. Let me see…” His fingers tap lips pursed in thought. “I would… I would bring a bit of rain to the too-dry places, a bit of warmth to the places too cold, fill the lakes and rivers with easy-caught fish, and make the land burst— well, not literally burst, but the point is, there would be food absolutely everywhere, and no one need ever go hungry again. And it would be a happy tune, putting everyone in a fine, friendly mood, so there’d be next to no quarrels between people. And babies! Babies for everyone who wants a baby! And people can run like horses, and OH, the things we could do with cloth!…”

“Yes, brilliant, thank you, Edgwyn,” Lute speaks through his cascade of laughter. “Can you top that, Rosalba?”

Rosalba as realized by my incredible Wilderhark artist, Yana Naumova.

Denebdeor’s Crown Princess smiles. “Add in Father’s melody that makes everyone sensible,” she says, “and it sounds a most ideal sort of world.”

“So much for the humanitarians. Now, Prince Benedeck – my tale’s secondary star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning.”

Benedeck bookmark, cropped

Benedeck’s lips twitch with amusement. “There’s a title even a Crown Prince doesn’t hear every day. How would I use the flute? Well.” He ducks his head. “Horrid as it might sound, I suppose the first thing I’d play is something to control my mother.”

“Only fair,” Lute remarks. “She’s had a thirty-some-year run of controlling you. About time the will bent the other way. What of you, Emmelea?” He turns to the new girl on the block. “Your first action would be…?”

Emmelea bookmark, cropped

“I expect,” she says, voice soft and serene, “I would quietly transform every government in the Great Land and the Far Eastern Isles into my private puppet regime. Little would the world know, I’ve become its empress.”

“Oh, my,” Lute says mildly. “But why not inform the world?”

Emmelea’s shoulders perform a graceful shrug. “Not everyone shares your desire for fame, Lute. I’d find it more interesting to pull the strings from the shadows. Or, if nothing else, more comfortable. I’m accustomed to being underestimated.”

“A feeling I know,” Lute mutters. “And now, my love saved for last. Viralei, dear.” He smiles upon Carillon’s Crown Princess. “My musical match. What would you do with the flute?”

Viralei bookmark, cropped

Her voice like the sweetest of songs, Viralei replies, “I would rule Carillon from afar, the flute’s tune connecting us whither I went. I could travel the world without leaving my people, and travel I would – with my chosen king.”

Lute blinks, lest the emotion in his eyes condense into moisture. “You would give me kingship and a life of vagabond adventure both?”

“With my very first breath.”

“Ah, Viralei…” The sigh blows from the depths of the minstrel’s soul. “Would that you had been made mistress of the flute, as well as of my heart. As it is… well, as of Tuesday, there’s a brand new book out in the world that relates exactly how it is. So, before we all disperse to our various realities, I leave you with this, readers o’ the blog: Suppose the magic flute came to you. What then? Share below, and as a bonus, your comment shall count toward an entry in that aforementioned giveaway. Be creative, be generous, be positively villainous…” He raises his brows. “You might be surprised what urges come to the fore when there’s limitless power involved.”

Edit: Almost forgot to announce the Day 1 and 2 winners of the “Song Caster” Launch Week Giveaway! Congratulations to…

Joanne Kershaw and Kimberly Kay!

You’ve each won a pair of postcards featuring lyrics to original Gant-o’-the-Lute songs – “The Life of a Tree” for Joanne, and for Kimberly, “Let’s Race the Sky”. Congratulations to you two, and to both you and everyone else, remember you’ve still got plenty of time and opportunities to rack up the raffle points. (Full entry details here.) I’ll have two more names drawn at random and announced at the end of Saturday’s post. (Will & Allyn, don’t let me forget!) See you then. ;D

The Song is Cast! (“Song Caster” Launch Week)

And now, at last, the day we’ve long awaited: The official Launch Day of “The Song Caster”!

Song Caster Cover, resize<> ~ <> ~ <>

The dull doom of impending marriage at his back and a reticent royal at his side, remarkable minstrel Gant-o’-the-Lute is off in search of adventure, and you can be sure he finds it – complete with much music, magicked maidens, and a dangerous power so great, Lute might for once find himself outmatched.

The Song Caster

Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales

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The book’s available via Amazon (paperback and Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (NOOK e-book), and CreateSpace (paperback), itching with excitement to venture into your homes and wow you. (Hot tip: If you’ve purchased the paperback through Amazon, you can pick up the Kindle edition at the reduced price of $0.99!)

I’m celebrating in usual Wilderhark-Tale-release style, with “Song Caster”-related fun from here ‘til next Tuesday, at which time I’ll announce the Grand Prize winners in my Launch Week Giveaway!

Here’s how the giveaway works this time around:

The Prizes

Normally, this would be the part where I trot out a quartet of original art prints to hang on your walls. But as his novella states first thing, “Jackillen Gant was not the sort that could easily keep still.” So instead of stay-still posters, I’m giving out cross-country postcards!

Day 1’s winner will receive two postcards featuring illustrated lyrics to an original, never-before-seen-by-the-public Gant-o’-the-Lute song.

Day 2’s winner gets two postcards featuring illustrated lyrics to another original Gant-o’-the-Lute song, likewise never-before-seen-by-the-public.

Day 3’s winner gets two postcards featuring a piece of Gant-o’-the-Lute art by my friend/fan/fellow author, Tirzah Duncan.

Day 4’s winner shall have two postcards featuring a piece of Gant-o’-the-Lute art sketched by Tirzah and colored by yours truly.

''Song Caster'' prize postcards

Day 5’s winner will have their choice of any two postcard designs (as pictured above).

Day 6’s winner will get a pair each of all four designs.

For Day 7 – Grand Prize Day – we’ll have three winners. Two will receive select chapters of “The Song Caster” with Author/Character commentary (that’s right – Lute and I teamed up, for this one!), along with their choice of two postcard designs. And lucky number three gets my first proof paperback copy of “The Song Caster” (signed, of course!), as well as a pair each of all four postcards!

Pretty sweet swag, right? Totally makes you want to enter the giveaway, right? Well, here’s how you can:

Entry = Raffle Points

Sharing a selfie of you with your copy of the book is a totally welcome entry, by the way!
Sharing a selfie of you with your copy of the book is a totally welcome entry, by the way!

Post about “The Song Caster” and/or the giveaway on Facebook or Twitter = +1 (there is no limit on how many times you can do this; each new share earns you another point)

Buy an e-copy of “The Song Caster” = +7

Buy a paperback of “The Song Caster” = +10

Leave a review on Amazon and/or B&N and/or Goodreads of any available Wilderhark Tales title = +7 points for each (and yes, copy/pasting the same review to all sites is totally legit! …Reviewing without having actually read the books first? Not so much. Maybe don’t do that)

Buy a copy of “Cry of the Nightbird” by Tirzah Duncan = +10 (plus the warm glow that comes of knowing you’ve helped support my BFF’s upcoming wedding!)

Tra-la. Tons of points, easily earned. Just be sure to let me know when you’ve fulfilled a task (comment on this post, tag/mention me on Facebook/Twitter, whatever), and into the raffle your points go. I’ll announce the first two winners at the end of Thursday’s post – which, ooh-ah, shall be hosted by none other than Gant-o’-the-Lute himself. We’ll see you then!

Book Banner, Song Caster

The Flute Stone (“Song Caster” Tease and Giveaway!)

Book Banner, Song Caster

With a week and a day* until the release of “The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales)”, I’ve decided to be a terrible tease and feed you excerpts of the novella set to launch on June 24, each accompanied by a mini-giveaway! The first happened here, the second here, and the third and last begins… now.

*At least, that’s the official launch day. Stick around ’til the end of the blog post for some exciting** pre-order info!

**Lute and I aren’t the only ones excited, right?

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With the air of one humoring another in the hopes of removing the other from one’s back, Benedeck looked where Lute indicated, his clear intention to look away again in the same instant. Yet, contrary to expectation, his gaze held.

“Oh!” he said in mild surprise. “Of course – I wonder that I did not realize we would happen across it while passing this way.”

It?” Lute asked.

“That landmark,” Benedeck clarified. “I’ve read of it. Many call it the Flute Stone, named for that narrow piece jutting out there. Curiously enough, that section is actually hollowed out in a markedly flute-like way. An eroding power of a river is an amazing thing – although naturally, the scientific explanation is nowhere near as popular as the fanciful one.”

“Hardly to be wondered at,” said Lute. “And the fanciful explanation is what, exactly?”

“It is said a wizard once fashioned a flute meant to control the world, but was displeased with the end result. Even so, he did not appreciate its theft by a brazen apprentice. The wizard caught up with the thief as he attempted to cross the river and, as punishment, turned him to stone, the flute still clutched in his hand.”

“The stone looks very little like a man,” Lute observed.

Benedeck rolled his eyes with something like amusement. “Very true. And wouldn’t you know that even the least scientific tale-tellers are perfectly willing to attribute that fact to erosion, even while saying also that, in spite of this ill-fated myth, any who brave the waters to blow the flute will gain good luck.”

“Is that so?” said Lute, eyes dancing. “I believe I should like to hear the music of such a flute.”

“You shall do no such thing,” Benedeck told him, “for the Flute Stone, though musically named, has never sounded a note.”

“No? Well, perhaps none with my musical ability have ever set their lips to it. Let us see if Gant-o’-the-Lute cannot make the Flute Stone sound. Be so good as to hold my fishing rod and mind my lute in my absence, Your Highness?”

Benedeck only stared at him. “You would attempt such a crossing now? With a river swollen with lately-melted snow sweeping one way and hundreds of trout swarming the other?”

“Certainly, I would,” Lute replied, already charting the course he would take. A flying leap ought to take him to that barely submerged boulder. (It will be slippery, he reminded himself. Watch the landing.) Another leap from the boulder should land him safely on the rocky shelf opposite. (No space for a running start there, so…) From thence to a second boulder – a shorter jump. And even if he missed his ultimate target on his fourth jump, the river’s current would bear him in the desired direction. (But of course, he thought without doubt, I will not miss.)

Benedeck uttering nervous protests all the way, the first steps of Lute’s plan were carried out, the amateur acrobat even throwing in a few aerial somersaults for showmanship’s sake. The bound to the submerged boulder was flawlessly executed, and he vaulted to the far side of the river with equal ease. The trouble lay in his leap to the second boulder – or more to the point, the trouble lay in the fact that the second boulder was not a boulder, but rather the back and shoulders of a large brown bear, now startled out of its preoccupation with trout fishing.

“LUTE!” shouted Benedeck.

“Whoops!” said Lute.

ROWRRR!” roared the bear.

Faced with these unexpected developments, Lute did the only sensible thing: Carried on with his plan by catapulting himself off of the angry bear’s shoulders and through the air, landing lightly on the contorted form of the Flute Stone.

“Triumph!” he crowed.

Behind you, you idiot!” Benedeck screamed.

Lute twisted around – not to face the animal shambling belligerently toward him, but to be in a better position to place his fingers and lips on the Flute Stone’s pipe-like appendix and blow.

And above the rush of the river, the snarls of the bear, and the panicked noises originating from Benedeck sounded a clear, mellifluous musical note.

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To be continued in full on June 24, release day for “The Song Caster”!

And now, for mini-giveaway number three! Leave a blog comment — OR order an early copy of the “Song Caster” paperback or NOOK book! — between now and the end of Friday, and from the commenters / those who provide some manner of proof of purchase, I shall randomly select one winner to receive the signed “Song Caster” bookmark pictured here.

Benedeck, color final

Back after his introduction way back in “The Stone Kingdom”, it’s Crown Prince Benedeck of Peasequay, as realized by my valued Wilderhark artist, Yana Naumova! Now comment and pre-order away, my dears, and I’ll have Will and Allyn announce the winner after their Interactive Theatre skit this Saturday. (:

On Adventure (“Song Caster” Tease and Giveaway!)

Book Banner, Song Caster

With three weeks and a day until the release of “The Song Caster (Book Four of The Wilderhark Tales)”, I’ve decided to be a terrible tease and feed you excerpts of the novella to come. You shall have three before the book’s launch on June 24, each accompanied by a mini-giveaway! The first happened here, and the second begins… now.

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“What’s this all about, sire?”

“That is more or less my question to you,” Villem said, his expression full of gentle concern. “You have seemed preoccupied today, Lute. Discontented. Restless. What is it that troubles you?”

Lute’s lips tugged into a rueful smile. “What troubles me, Your Majesty,

Is perhaps a foolish and selfish thing.

It is just, today, my dear Viralei

Did something quite sobering say.”

“And what was that?” Villem asked, taking in stride the musical turn his friend’s side of the conversation had taken.

“In essence?” Lute sighed. “Said she, ‘Oh, when, my Jackillen,

Will marriage our lengthy engagement end?

Will you settle down, stop your wandering ‘round,

And accept, now, your Crown Prince’s crown?’”

Rosalba’s brow furrowed. “Do you not wish to marry Viralei?”

“Most assuredly, I do,” Lute answered. “I wish very much to marry Viralei. I am much less enthused, however, at the prospect of marrying the kingdom of Carillon. I do not now, nor have I ever, desired to be a royal. I cannot imagine I am suited to all that comes hand in hand with such a rank.”

Villem could empathize. “I felt much the same, in the beginning,” he said. “There is such a great responsibility pertaining to—”

“Pfft, responsibility,” said Lute. “It’s boring! Sitting on a throne all day, getting dressed up for meetings with Lord This and Duke That and Count Wha’-do-you-call-‘im, next-to-never setting foot outside the castle walls unless it’s to parade down the streets so your subjects can wave at you, or – if you’re lucky – go to war, somewhere…  except that we never have any wars,” he sulked, “perhaps because the never-ending tedium of royalty has sapped the spirit right out of any would-be warmongers.”

“You want war?” cried an appalled Rosalba.

“Not war. Freedom! Excitement! Facing giants, rescuing damsels, matching wits with a riddler and staves with a highwayman! Crisscrossing the countryside in search of obstacles to overcome, and then besting them! Or even as little as watching the sun rise from a different viewpoint every morning – today from the valley, tomorrow the mountain, the next day the sea, the day beyond a mystery!” Lute’s eyes implored his audience. “Have you never wished this?”

“I think,” said Edgwyn, “that you and I must have very different ideas about excitement. Expertly woven cloth is exciting. Watching my children play and grow is exciting. Being called for supper after a long, hungry afternoon is exciting. Trouble for trouble’s own sake? That just makes me queasy.”

Lute grimaced in clear disappointment. “Cloth?” he said. “Children? Supper? Dear me. You see what princely life does to a person. Or is it your advancing age which has made you so dull?”

“If that is truly how you feel, Lute,” said Villem, “then, as I see it, you have three options: One, relinquish Viralei for a life of what you call excitement. Two, relinquish your life of what you call excitement for Viralei. Or three, convince Viralei to relinquish her life for yours.”

Lute shook his head. “I could never ask that third of her. As you began to say, before I so rudely interrupted,” – here he offered the king a bow of apology – “royalty is a responsibility. It would be unfair of me to force Viralei to choose between who she is meant to be, and me. Nor could I bear to be parted from Viralei forever.” He sighed. “No, I must marry her. There’s nothing for it. But…”

Watching Lute’s eyes shift through their tri-color cycle, Villem got the sense he knew what was coming next.

“We have waited this long. Would one season more really matter? One adventure more before I cage myself in?”

“Seeking out adventure,” Villem mused. “Are you sure that is wise?”

Lute shrugged carelessly. “If it is not wise,

I shall be the wiser for it

On the other side.

Just as crushing grapes

Down to next-to-naught’s what makes the

Sweetest kind of wine.

The firing of gold makes it shine all the purer.

Of this I’m full certain – am of nothing surer:

Though it beat you down –

Run you ragged, strain you, drain you

‘Til you’re nearly dry –

The adventure that

Doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,

Braver, true, and wise.

“That’s the beauty of adventure, Villem. That’s why I’m not prepared to give it up, just yet. If anything, the fact I still think I need it only proves that I do. And of course,” he added, with a winsome smile, “the best adventures are faced with friends. Perhaps Your Majesty, having so recently been granted a second chance at life, would enjoy living it on the edge for a while? Or, hmm…” The minstrel paused to play with the sounds of speech. “‘Edge for a while’… Edgwyn Wyle… What say you to a while on the edge, Edgwyn? One final fling, you and I?”

“No, thank you,” Edgwyn said with some vehemence. “After that close call of the Seventh Spell, I am all flung out.”

“As am I,” Villem seconded. “I’m afraid you’re on your own for this one, Lute.”

Breaking her silence of several moments, Rosalba said, “Maybe not.”

Villem raised an eyebrow at his daughter. “Are you thinking of joining him?”

“Not me, no. But if Lute is correct in saying adventure works such wonders for a person’s character…” The princess’s eyes took on a faraway look. “I think I may know someone for whom a proper adventure could be just the thing.”

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To be continued, in part, soon enough. To be continued, in full, on June 24, release day for “The Song Caster”!

And now, for mini-giveaway number two! Leave a blog comment between now and the end of Friday, and from the commenters I shall randomly select one winner to receive the signed “Song Caster” bookmark pictured here.

Emmelea, color final

Joining the “Song Caster” cast in her Wilderhark debut, say hello to Emmelea, as realized by my valued Wilderhark artist, Yana Naumova! Now comment away, my dears, and I’ll have Will and Allyn announce the winner after their Interactive Theatre skit this Saturday. ^_^