Five Thousand Words’ Worth of Feels

Once upon a time – specifically, on the day I was scheduled to hop a 10-hour flight from Chicago to Amsterdam – I was granted a blessed distraction from my stressful morning full of last-minute packing (and repacking) by a message from friend/fan Jay Cottle. To paraphrase said message:

I’ve read “The Story’s End”, and I have FEELINGS!

As the book’s author, those words alone would have been enough to brighten my heart. But then – THEN – I realized that I was also looking at a series sketches inspired by the book, which caused my insides to go something like:

I’m looking at fan art, and I have FEELINGS!

‘Cause I don’t know about authors in general, but my definition of success prominently features fan art. *starry-eyed smile*

So here we are a month later, with my European river cruise behind me, my 2015 NaNoWriMo won, and me about as settled in Germany as I’m probably going to be before briefly returning to the States. Sounds like the perfect time to finally show you guys Jay’s “Story’s End” pics! #Behold

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Jay Cottle ''Story's End'' Art 1
1/5

Jay Cottle ''Story's End'' Art 2
2/5

Jay Cottle ''Story's End'' Art 3
3/5

Jay Cottle ''Story's End'' Art 4
4/5

Jay Cottle ''Story's End'' Art 5
5/5

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If you’ve read the novella, you’ve probably got a pretty good grasp of everything going on in these images. If you haven’t read it – if, indeed, you haven’t even purchased it yet – good news: That is easily remedied!

Big thanks for the Wilderhark love, Jay! And anytime anyone else wants to throw some Deshipley story-related art my way, know that I will be more than happy to receive it. ^_^

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.

“Pardon?”

“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. ^_^

Fair Wind, Fair Warning

Only one week (holy yipe!) until the launch of “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)” (the Kindle e-book of which is currently available for pre-order, by the way!). To mark* the occasion (*you’ll see in half-a-sec what I did, there), have a look at this gorgeous piece of work from my treasured Wilderhark Artist, Yana Naumova!

Vesparya, color final, gallery size

Yep, the West Wind gets a bookmark, this time around (which naturally will feature among the prizes in my Launch/Farewell Party giveaway). And high goodness, those colors! *breathes deep of her living air in awe*

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Alrighty. Sit ye down, now. Candid chat time.

Some readers have expressed to me that they don’t care for Vesparya, particularly much – at least in conjunction with her love interest gained in Book Six. Come to that, there’s been a fair amount of reader discontent with Book Six in general (along with gratifying reports of reader satisfaction. Subjectivity at work, y’all. ;D). While this is in part due, I think, to a human audience not necessarily “getting” the Welken ethic, it’s also largely to do with the book’s ending.

Wilderhark Tales One through Five concluded with the good ol’ HEA – Happy Ever After. They were simple. They were sweet.

“Surrogate Sea” didn’t play that way.

“Whyever not?” Gant-o’-the-Lute speaks for the people, thrusting an imaginary microphone beneath my nose. “Why break with the tried-and-true formula, author? Were you going for edginess? Shock value?”

Truth be told, I wasn’t going for anything. I just followed the story where it led me, same as ever.

Well, no. Not quite the same.

With Books Two through Five, I had a plan. (Not so much for Book One. That one came before my time as a plotter.) With Book Six, I had ideas. The characters had motivations. The South Wind certainly had a plan, scheming sort that he is. But nobody knew what the ending would hold. It was an ending born not of plans, but of consequences.

Readers may not realize it, since the series got published so fast – eight books in under three years, it’ll soon be – but quite a bit of time passed between the writing of Books One and Six. Heck, there was a significant gap just between Books Four* and Six.

(*Fun fact: I actually wrote “Sun’s Rival” before circling back to “Song Caster”. Lute was not amused.)

Within that passage of time, I changed. (As living people will do.) And when an author changes, stories different than before will tend to find her. I used to have a simple, sweet, Happy Ever After kind of heart.

I don’t anymore. At least, not all the time.

I can still enjoy such tales, presented by others. But the words inside me no longer gravitate toward such an optimistic direction. Now, people die. People lose. People live the conseqences of their (sometimes really ill-advised) choices. No good thing lasts forever. Not every affliction can be magicked away with a kiss. And not even my fairytales can avoid the truth of that.

Hence “The Surrogate Sea”.

And hence “The Story’s End”.

It’s okay if you miss the old me. I miss her, too, sometimes. But it is my hope that going in with fair warning will prepare readers to take the final Wilderhark Tale as it is, not as they might otherwise have expected it to be. I’m not looking to pull the rug out from under anyone. I’m just telling the story I saw, though it break my heart a hundred times to do so.

The new me finds a measure of pleasure in heartbreak written well. Perhaps you’ll find that you do, too.

Sometimes... sometimes.
Sometimes… sometimes.

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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.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf – pre-order for Kindle – nab on Nook – call forth in paperback form via CreateSpace … Basically, waiting to book blast this baby on Launch Day is optional. ;D

Open Journal: Countdown Coma

By the time this post goes live, it’ll be October. For me – this year in particular – that means a lot of things.

It means birthdays – my sister’s (Oct. 1), my other sister’s son’s (Baby Nephew hits 1 year old on the 16th!), and my own (Oct. 30th. I’mma be old. *ducks fruit thrown by the 30-and-over crowd*).

It means adding to my publication list – the “Beyond the Wail” paranormal anthology (Oct. 10th), “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)” (Oct. 13th), and I’m pretty sure another anthology with a story of mine is set to come out in the neighborhood of Halloween, too, but I’m still waiting on the details for that, so everybody stand by.

It means leaving the country – first for a European river cruise with my bestie (is this the real life???), then onto my temporary/permanent residence in Germany, where I will be aforementioned bestie’s (and her husband’s) butler.

I’ve already proved I’ve got the chops! …The only qualifications are looking suspicious during a murder case, right?
I’ve already proved I’ve got the chops! …The only qualifications are looking hella suspicious during a murder case, right?

Boy, do I hope my boxes ship there safe and sound. *freaks out at the prospect of the post office losing HALF MY STUFF*

There’s soooooo much on my horizon that all I can really feel is tired. And stressed (but that’s pretty much a given, for me). And all kinds of out-of-it. Thank God I had the foresight to do most of the planning and prep for my “Story’s End” launch party well in advance, ‘cause I’ve got precious little get-up-‘n’-get-‘er-done left, at this point.

Part of that’s to do with all the editorial work I’ve been doing on Xchyler Publishing projects, lately – hardcore author-brain activity on stories not my own (weeeeeeird), all in between packing for my move and having to do stuff like eat every day.

“That last item isn’t actually supposed to be a chore,” Edgwyn reminds me gently.

Yeah, but it is for me.

So much to do, still only twenty-four hours in a day, minus sleep.

“HA.”

I sleep more nights than not. Hush your face.

“Sleep nights,” Will Scarlet jumps in. “Meaning that whole nocturnal thing didn’t work out, for ya.”

Nah, not for long.

Nocturnal pros:

– Nighttime doesn’t mean bedtime

– Watching Netflix during the hours least plagued by interruptions from family members and tech glitches

Nocturnal cons:

– Daytime means bedtime

– Missing out on hanging with Baby Nephew during the day*

*(Which, I mean, also happens when I’m juggling a dozen looming deadlines at once… and/or marathon phone conversations with the bestie)

– Everyone else in the house is awake, so don’t expect any peace and quiet

What I’d really like is a sleep schedule that doesn’t require sleep, but my body repeatedly yells at me that this is unfeasible. So my new plan has been to basically stay up until I can’t keep my eyes open, then crash.

Edgwyn crosses his arms, his expression his approximation of stern. “That sounds suspiciously like your semi-suicidal plan for life in general.”

Things will be different when I get to Germany. My plate will be much cleared. Heck, I’m even thinking about a blogging break.

“But… but…!” Will cries. “You don’t mean my Fridays?”

You mean like today? <_< Not really bothered about ‘em, dude. Mind you, I don’t plan to disappear from Ever On Word entirely. I’ll still drop in when the mood strikes. ‘Cause I mean, I’ll be in Europe. I intend to have Experiences. I’ll want some kind of record of that. And call me nutty, but I don’t expect I’ll feel much like taking time out of, say, exploring the Black Forest to help you draft frivolous skits.

“Humph.”

“It’s for the greater good, Will,” Edgwyn reminds him. “Who is it who keeps saying the girl needs a vacation?”

Will flaps a hand. “Oh, some hot stud in red. His name escapes me. Wanna call him Will Something, or Something Scarlet…”

Well, the vacation draws nearer. Just a matter, now, of getting through the month…

My wall’s stripped half-naked in the name of art relocation to my future space. Future Me thanks me. Present Me responds, “Blergggh.”
My wall’s stripped half-naked in the name of art relocation to my future space. Future Me thanks me. Present Me responds, “Blergggh.”

Wintry with a High Chance of a Teaser

Quick word from our sponsor (…so, basically me):

My serial Wilderhark Talette continues, today, with Part 4 of “The Soul Shepherdessnow live on Channillo.com. Subscribers, check it out! Non-subscribers… well, I’m sure you can figure out how to remedy that.

And now onto our regularly scheduled blog post.

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Only 2 weeks and a day (can you believe it?!) until the launch of “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)”. To mark* the occasion (*you’ll see in half-a-sec what I did, there), have a look at this gorgeous piece of work from my treasured Wilderhark Artist, Yana Naumova!

Aquinore, color final, gallery size

That chill in the air isn’t just October breathing down our necks. It’s Aquinore, Wind of the North, standing proud on one of three new bookmark designs made just for “Story’s End” – which you can bet will feature in a giveaway during the online Launch Party, coming soon to Facebook. (Drop in! Invite your friends! We’ll party like it’s #WilderharkTales7, up in here!)

Just what role will the Sky’s icy wind have to play in the Wilderhark Tales’ final chapter? That, I’m hardly about to tell you. But if we’re talking of chapters, how’s this for a tease: A peek at the lineup of chapter titles for “The Story’s End”!

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~ A Ballad of Life and Death ~

~ Winter and Spring ~

~ Gant Expectations ~

~ Sky on Earth, Earth in Sky ~

~ The Silencing of Song ~

~ A Lost Lullaby ~

~ The Bard and His Boy ~

~ No Kind of Home ~

~ Whispers in the Night ~

~ Tales of Time Gone By ~

~ Old Friends with New Faces ~

~ The Gant Commission ~

~ The Dark Divide ~

~ Spinning a Long-Ago Spell ~

~ Last Light of the Moon ~

~ The Way through the Window ~

~ A Gathering Storm ~

~ Song’s Finale ~

~ Epilogue: …All the Rest of Their Days ~

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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.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

A Pair’s Portrait, and Part of the Sky

Only 3 weeks (WHAT? GAH! HOW IS SEPTEMBER ALMOST GONE?!) until the launch of “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)”. To mark* the occasion (*you’ll see in half-a-sec what I did, there), have a look at this gorgeous piece of work from my treasured Wilderhark Artist, Yana Naumova!

Allyn, color final, gallery size

That’s right, it’s one of three new bookmark designs made just for “Story’s End” – which you can bet will feature in a giveaway during the online Launch Party, coming soon to Facebook. If that young man by the fire looks familiar to frequenters of this blog, there’s a solid reason for that. ;D And of course we all know Gant-o’-the-Lute – up in a tree again, just like in his personal bookmark for Book Four.

What’s he thinking about, up there? The same wish he’s held in his heart from the start of things, as glimpsed in “The Song Caster” and laid bare in “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”. Attune your ear and listen. Hear the music? It’s not “Part of Your World” – a fair guess, given the identical melody and lyric structure, but no. This is not the song of a Disney mermaid longing for land, but that of a Wilderhark minstrel who craves higher still…

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Look at this trick. Isn’t it neat?

Wouldn’t you think that my talent’s complete?

You’d think of me, wouldn’t you, that I can do anything?

*

Look at me now. Don’t I astound?

Watch me be a wonder while you wonder how.

One hour around me, and now you’re sure I can do anything.

*

I can top all your top virtuosos –

Any instrument, and any score;

Best you at your best game with my eyes closed.

But so what? Not enough. I want more.

Sky Child, cropped

I want to leave where the people are.

I want to see where no man’s yet ventured.

Land’s been done into the ground.

Try the sea, you say? …Ha. Cute.

*

But even a ship only sails so far.

Higher’s required for my adventure!

Impossible? Ah, you’re forgetting:

I’m Gant-o’-the-Lute.

Rays of Songlight - Copy

You’re free to walk. You’re free to run.

I mean to make my way to the sun,

And hang gravity! I long to be

Part of the sky.

*

What would I give if I could live up where the winds race?

What would I pay to spend a day there ere I die?

What won’t I try? Won’t be denied. Though I spend all my life in the chase,

I’m not quitting. Sick of sitting. Ready to fly!

On Music's Wings

I’m ready to know where the sunset goes!

Follow it westward, and rise come morning!

Dance over stars that your eyes only spy from below!

*

When can I go? Wouldn’t I love,

Love to explore and soar up above?

The sky’s part of me. And someday I’ll be

Part of the sky.

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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.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

The Beginning of the End

Story's End Cover Reveal Tease

Once upon a time not so very long gone, I began my self-publishing adventure with a walk beneath the boughs of an enchanted forest. Step followed step, and story followed story – from the mystery of “The Swan Prince” to the legend of “The Stone Kingdom”, through time with “The Seventh Spell” and to the music of “The Song Caster”, under the dueling lights of “The Sun’s Rival” and into the storm of “The Surrogate Sea”, taking a side jaunt with “The Sky-Child and Other Stories” along the way. And now at last, the journey nears its end.

From the inspired hand of Yana Naumova, I present to you…

…the face of the final Wilderhark Tales novella.

(Click to zoom in for a closeup)
(Click to zoom in for a closeup)

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.

The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales”, coming October 13, 2015; now available to add to your Goodreads “To Read” shelf.

The Outside

Those of you who’ve laid hands on hard copies of the previous Wilderhark Tales may be saying to yourselves, “Is it just me, or is the spine of Book Seven looking pretty fancy?”

To which I say, “It’s not just you.”

My perfectionist eye has grown disgruntled with the comparative plainness of my Wilderhark covers’ typography – particularly on the spines. I want my book babies’ exteriors to flaunt a touch more pop!, and I just may have finally figured out how to achieve it. This means that by the time the last novella launches (barring insurmountable shenanigans), all of the preceding Tales will be gussied up to match it. Sing hey for self-pubbing with print-on-demand, where such tweaks can be made without bringing the world to its knees!

The Inside

I shall be frank with you: This story both pleases me and breaks me every time I read it. It is an emotional, bittersweet, and straight-up painful goodbye to the series that’s become so dear to a number of hearts. I hope you love it and/or curse my name through your tears.

In the meantime… what do you think of the cover? ^^