Something Witchy This Way Comes (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Our mutual author describes her thus:

Known by many names and none, a mysterious magic-worker slips seen and unseen throughout the lands and ages, her spellwork leaving a legacy of hearts broken and unified. She’s made her presence felt since the start of the Wilderhark Tales. What part will she play at story’s end?

“Welcome— um, you!” Will greets the woman now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – for the purposes of this interview, if nothing else, what do I even call you?”

The woman – her appearance neither fair nor foul, old nor young, eyes dark curtains drawn over the windows to the depths of her – looks unblinking at her host. “You may do as those before you have done and think of me simply as ‘the Anarchwitch’. The title was taken knowing it would be thus used.”

“But it’s not a terribly specific title, is it? There have been any number of anarchwitches harassing the Wilderhark world’s royals, over the years.”

She inclines her head in acknowledgment. “We were numerous, for a time. Now the order is long gone, and I the last remaining.” A wistful shake of the head. “You humans come and go so fast.”

Will raises his brows. “Are you not human, then? One of the Welkens, perhaps? Or another of those what-do-you-call-‘ems – what Princess Liliavaine in Book Six of the series labeled ‘more-than-men’?”

“More, certainly. But what I am is not mine to tell. A secret’s keeping is mine. Its handing away,” she says dryly, “our author’s.”

“Heh, I expect that’s generally so. Still, I hope you’ll indulge me in sharing a few details that never made it onto the page. For example, there’s your relationship with Ursula, sometime queen of Denebdeor. You didn’t seem to like her particularly much, and yet you twice—”

“Thrice,” the Anarchwitch calmly cuts across him.


“Three times I gave her aid.”

Will tallies on his fingers. “The baby thing in ‘Stone Kingdom’, the titular Seventh Spell…” He frowns. “You don’t seriously think of the Tipsilvren disaster as helping, do you?”

The woman’s bearing hardens. “It led her to her heart’s other half – and what’s more, returned him to himself. Were it not for me, he would have been under the careless curse of another for the whole of his days, and Denebdeor forever fallen into ruin.” She relaxes a fraction back into her seat. “I cast my first spell neither against Ursula nor for her alone, but for the betterment of many. Thus have my powers been ever used.”

“Not everyone sees it that way. I hear you caught some reader flak for your actions in ‘The Sky-Child’. Something about your curse on Viralei coming across as over-harsh and emotionally manipulative?”

“Over-harsh?” The witch blinks for the first time since arrival. “She was rude. Ursula’s disrespect to me brought her first curse upon her, and no shortage of death with it. Her second lack of manners provoked her kingdom’s century-long petrifaction. Why, then, would I not see fit to punish one whose words to her would-be lover were not only harsh, but cruel? I will not suffer insults from entitled royals, whether the insult be aimed at me, a common man, or a minstrel as far from common as uncommon can be.

“As for emotional manipulation…” She waves a dismissive hand. “’Twas no love spell I cast. I only held her immobile that she might look at the man of music long enough to see whether his inner song called to hers or not. She was free to reject him again once he’d effected her rescue. That she did not is no doing of mine.”

“For someone not in the business of love spells,” Will observes, “you sure have a knack for playing matchmaker. You ever think about scaring up a true love for yourself?”

“It… has crossed my mind.” Her gaze drifts away. “But for all that the stories in which I’ve played a part may seem to argue otherwise, true love is a rather rare thing. Surely you can see why. Think of the string of improbabilities so often required to bring the lovers together. To connect with one’s heart-match alone, unaided by someone with the advantage of an outside perspective, is but one chance in thousands. I came as close to love as I ever will, in this world, and it was not close enough.”

“Oh.” Will deflates, despondent. “I am so sorry. That’s… that blows.”

A smile-like shadow flits over the woman’s face. “Winds blow, Scarlet. An example of what is being what is. I am less concerned with ‘is’ or ‘was’ than ‘will be’. You have a final question for me, do you not?”

The corners of Will’s mouth thrust upward into his smile’s return. “Like you’d need any special magic to know that. Tell me, Anarchwitch, what is our author Danielle’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” The smile beams brighter in defiance of its earlier dim. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

“I have told you: A secret’s keeping is mine. You’ll learn no more from any words I speak. As for what a kiss may tell…” Her eyes focus past Will, beyond the camera’s reach. “That knowledge is for him.”

Will turns in surprise. “Allyn??”

Allyn’s voice rises gaspward. “Me?”

The witch rises to her feet, beckoning. “Come forward, child, and hear what I would say.”

In wordless uncertainty, Allyn crosses the stage to stand before her. Just as silent, her hand guiding his chin’s angle higher, she leans in to touch her lips to his, the kiss lasting but a moment, yet lingering outside of time. Before Allyn’s closed eyes flutter open, the Anarchwitch is gone, vanished into the air like a breath released.

“Well?” Will demands, when Allyn stands speechless. “What did her kiss have to say for itself?”

Allyn’s head half-turns Will’s way, the eyes in his lashes’ shadows revealing as little as any witch. “It sounded like, ‘Good luck go with you.’”

“…Huh,” Will says at last. “If that isn’t just about as enigmatic as it gets. What do you think, Allyn? Are you up to giving the word from our sponsor?”

“Of course,” says Allyn, the shake of his head more an attempt to clear it than a refusal of duty. “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment was brought to you by the conclusion of Danielle E. Shipley’s Wilderhark Tales novellas, ‘The Story’s End’ – its launch celebration going on all this week on Facebook:

Story's End Cover, gallery size

For Gant-o’-the-Lute, “ever after” has been less than happy. With the last of Carillon’s charm over him gone, the minstrel-king puts royalty behind him in pursuit of the music he once knew and the lifelong dream he let slip through his fingers. But dark whispers on the wind warn that time is running out – not only for Lute and the apprentice in his shadow, but the whole of earth and Sky.

“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you as well, Anarchwitch, wherever you’ve disappeared to. And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. (And seriously? Stop by the ‘Story’s End’ party, if you get the chance. And/or take advantage of the insane price-drop on Books 1 – 6.5 of The Wilderhark Tales on Kindle. 99 cents a pop, man. Take it from a thief – that’s a steal.) ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

Wilderhark Series, 99 cents
Click the pic for the series page on my website; convenient sales links await. ^_^

Behind the Talette: “Starheart”

It’s the last Monday of the month, meaning my Channillo series has grown by one Wilderhark Talette. ^o^

“One of these days,” says Rosalba, “you shall have to tell me the Stone Kingdom story you heard as a child. I would be most interested to see how it compares with Denebdeor’s history.”

“Uh-oh,” Edgwyn chuckles. “I think you’re giving our author ideas.”

(Heck yeah, she is!)

— from “The Stone Kingdom Character Commentary”

That idea stayed with me, too, prompting me to coax Edgwyn’s favorite childhood tale out of imagination and onto the page. As I settled in to write it, though, I realized it wasn’t a story I wanted to tell. Like Rosalba, I wanted to hear it from Edgwyn! Because as readers of “The Sun’s Rival” (or the first two Wilderhark Talettes, for that matter) can attest, Edgwyn bedtime stories are the bomb-diggity best.

Thus was “Starheart” born. And some folks are in for a special privilege. Because you know Wilderhark Tales book 6.5, “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”? Those other stories include “Starheart” – meaning that Wilderhark Talette subscribers get to enjoy this taste of the collection before everyone who has to wait until the whole book releases in July. So here’s lookin’ at you, hipsters. X)

Edg 'n' Rose figurines, as sculpted by beloved fan-friend Chelsea de la Cruz.
Edg ‘n’ Rose figurines, as sculpted by beloved fan-friend Chelsea de la Cruz.

Let it here be known: This story was a joy to write. It’s been so long since I first found my way through “The Stone Kingdom”; I hadn’t even realized how much I missed hanging out with Edgwyn and Rosalba in their relationship’s earliest days.

I also enjoyed getting to explore a bit more of the princess and tailor’s cultures – both through his presentation of a classic children’s tale of his generation, and her overview of a mythology revered as history among the Great Land’s royals. Regarding the latter (and much to the gratification of my realism-loving writing buddy *winks for Tirzah*), it turns out there’s actually a solid explanation for why, as Gant-o’-the-Lute once bemoaned in “The Song Caster”, their world has yet to experience international war.

So whether you’re in it for the worldbuilding or the distinction of reading a story ahead of the crowd, or you’re just hankering hard for a sweet Edg ‘n’ Rose fix, this is a tale(tte) that I, for one, don’t think you oughtta miss. “Starheart” awaits you on; have you got your subscription? ;D

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!”

Why the Phrase “Strong Female Heroine” Needs to Die

(Also published on the blog of Luna Station Quarterly.)

Short answer: Because “female heroine”, guys. Think about it. Wince with me.

Long answer: Expressed pretty well in this oldie*-but-good article.

*Several months is probably a lot longer in Internet years, right?

Swan Princess, What Else Is There
Derek/Readers: “What? You’re all I ever wanted. You’re beauti– *cough* /strong/!” ~ Odette/Female Character: “Thank you. But what else?” ~ Derek/Readers: “What else?” ~ Odette/Female Character: “Is strength all that matters to you?” ~ Derek/Readers: “What else /is/ there?” ~ Rogers/Me: *FAIL*

Not My Type.

Maybe the kickass, badass, hardass, [insert any other ***appropriate*** “ass” term here] heroine really resonates with/appeals to some people. Well enough. Just don’t give me the stink eye if “strong female heroine lead” isn’t that high on my list of things that excite me about a book. Tell me she’s a British thief? I’m all ears. Tell me she’s strong? Meh.

The kind of heroines I tend to most enjoy and relate to (I realized during my Love-a-Thon interview with Mara of the Book Marauder blog) don’t kick butt for a living. They’re goofy (not like “lol, look at me, I think I’m so awkward…”, but like actually kind of insane), dramatic, maybe a bit stuck on themselves. They sulk, they stew, they hurt and maybe don’t bother to hide it. They love their friends, and hate their friends, and lament to their friends that they have no friends. Sometimes they do things I wish I could do, sometimes they do things I would totally do, sometimes they do things I cringe at them and/or me for having done. Maybe “heroine”s not even always the word for these girls. But they make me laugh. They make me nod and sigh and ache. They make me want to shout at or shake them. I feel like we’d understand one another. I don’t know about females in general, but feeling understood means much to me.

Could You Be More Specific?

What does everyone even mean by “strong”? Because the more I see it slapped with seeming carelessness onto the front of the words “female lead/character/please, Lord, not ‘heroine’, not again”, the less weight it carries with me. It’s like people use it to avoid having to actually think about how to describe the character. Laaaame! Here, let me show you how it’s done. I’ll use some of the leading ladies in my own writing as examples.

Sula (“The Swan Prince”, “The Seventh Spell”) = surly, resistant, mistrustful, thoughtless

Rosalba (“The Stone Kingdom”, “The Seventh Spell”) = gracious, straightforward, quick-tempered, practical

Annabelle (“Inspired”) = imaginative, sensitive, excitable, immature

Uri (“Inspired”) = cynical, antisocial, pious, mouthy

You see what I did there? A well-rounded girl is more than “strong”; more, even, than “feisty” and “snarky”, two other go-to adjectives for female characters. If you call my characters strong, I’ll assume you meant it as a compliment and will take it as such. But if you label my characters something a little more unique to who they are as individuals, I will be all the happier.

Just, whatever you do, please: Never, EVER call them “strong female heroines”. My soul functions better when little pieces of it aren’t dying.

A question for you, now, readers: Who are some of your favorite fictional females, and what non-“strong” words would you use to describe them? 

Related article: “Challenging the Expectation of YA Characters as ‘Role Models’ for Girls” by Sarah Ockler

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”!


[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.

“First” vs. “Second”

Which is scarier: Releasing your very “preceding all others in time, order, or importance” book, or releasing your “next to the first in place or time”?

On the one hand, Book One of the Wilderhark Tales was my chance to make a smashing first impression. Most of my intended audience had little to no idea who I was, or didn’t know much about my writing style beyond what they’d read in Ever On Word blog posts or the odd short story here and there. Essentially, “The Swan Prince” was my big “HERE I AM” to the world, and set up a precedent for what people could expect, both from my authorial style, and from the Wilderhark series in particular.

To my continual glee, my self-publishing debut was very well received! We got some nice buzz going during the launch week, I’ve accumulated a treasured number of flattering reviews, apparently sales aren’t straight-up dismal, I was able to talk my local library into purchasing a copy (if you happy to be anywhere near Waukegan Public Library, run in there and demand to borrow it!), and – glory of glories – it even won the Reader’s Choice Award during July’s Blogger Book Fair! The Wilderhark Tales were off to a great start!

Then it came time to follow up with Book Two.

I was a little bit nervous going into the publication process for “The Stone Kingdom”. It wasn’t only a matter of putting out a great book anymore; now, there were expectations to live up to.

As I hope should go without saying, “Stone Kingdom” isn’t simply a clone of its predecessor. There are some notable similarities within the storyline, we do see some familiar faces from “Swan Prince”, and there is consistency within the narrative voice. But apart from that (and, of course, the well-known fairytale references), everything’s all new.

What if readers didn’t connect with the new protagonists?

What if they felt the story was somehow a letdown?

What if they thought it was too X or not Y enough or what in the Z was the author thinking?!

Well, it was simply a risk I had to take. I’d written the book. I’d promised the book. By jolly, I was going to deliver the book, and Z take the consequences! (I’m really starting to take a shine to “Z” as an expletive…)

And— say what? How now? Egad, my advance readers gave a really positive response!

Wry wit, clever twists, and, of course, dashing love interests,” they said!

Not only fun and funny, but relevant and wise,” they said!

Even, “I will go as far as to say that this one was better than the first.” (“Eeeeee-wow!!!” I said.)

And Edgwyn has to deal with the fact that everybody loves him. (“‘Nyeh, nyeh,’ she said,” he grumbles lightly.)

Looks like ya done good, “Stone Kingdom”! I am very proud of you.*

*I’ve actually been proud of the book for years before its publication. It’s one of my favorite Wilderhark Tales. ^.^

Books One and Two of  The Wilderhark Tales, as photographed by happy reader Steven Bourelle.
Books One and Two of The Wilderhark Tales, as photographed by happy reader Steven Bourelle.

Hu-u-uge thanks – thanks THIS BIG – to everyone who’s already purchased/read/told me they love “The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales)” so far. (Please don’t forget to tell the retail sites, too, with an honest review! …or a lying review, if that’s how you roll, but I think most of us would much prefer your honesty.) And if you – yes, you; don’t pretend to look innocent, you know I mean you – haven’t experienced the book yet, wait no longer! Nab a paperback via Amazon or CreateSpace, or an e-book for your Kindle or Nook! The people have spoken: The read’s “well worth Wyle”. ;D

“Pronunciation” or “pro-NUN-see-A-shuhn”

Once upon a time, a dashing young authoress (chicks can be dashing, right? I mean, this particular author may not necessarily fit that description, but it may prove a most fitting adjective for some other ladies out there) was thinking about shutting down her laptop and going to bed – but only thinking about it, mind. Surely there was time to read one quick blog post before any actual action needed to be taken. (“Dashing, 1: marked by vigorous action.” Okay, fine, this author isn’t dashing.)

In that post, entitled “I’ve Been Pronouncing It Wrong This Whole Time!”, Butterflies and Dragons blogger Leigh Townsend related how she’d gone through several books in a fantasy series before she checked the glossary and realized she’d been mentally mispronouncing one of the names all along.

Reading that got the author musing, “Well, hey, I’m self-publishing a series of fantastic novellas with names as recognizably common as I am dashing – which is to say, not very. Suppose some of my readers are unsure of how to say the names correctly?”

So that very night, rather than slip into the inaction of bedtime, the author racked up dashing points by compiling a pronunciation guide to display on her blog.

And that author… *solemn nods* …was me.

So, all that to say, ta-da! There is now a People and Places Pronunciation Guide included at the end of my Wilderhark Tales page!

Rebus illustrations not included.
Rebus illustrations not included.

As of yet, I’ve only cataloged the recurring names of characters, towns, and kingdoms that have featured in Books One and Two of the series, “The Swan Prince” and the newly-released “The Stone Kingdom” (on sale now! Buy! Review! Pretty please and thank you muchly!). I’ll build the list as the subsequent books come out, introducing new cast members and locations.

I hope somebody finds the guide helpful! And if not, whatever, I had fun putting it together. X)

Don’t be shy about telling me if you’ve been pronouncing any of the names differently, up ‘til now. …Or if you intend to keep pronouncing them any way you want, never mind the author’s official answer given too late to reset your perception. (I’m a reader, too. I know how it goes.)