Friendship: The Most Super Power of All

In the early chapters of “So Super Dead” (out now!), one of Nicky/Xtra-Medium’s main goals is to fit in with Gravity Assist, the super squad from the moon out to save First Earth from… whatever. And I mean, that’s a worthy motivation, no doubt. But if we’re talking about real squad goals, Gravity Assist’s got nothing on Thackeray Kyle’s crew.

The first time I wrote about the Vampire Hunter – in a short story, several years ago – his three cameramen were just anonymous nobodies filming the drama for reality TV. When I decided to expand into a novel, I knew that wouldn’t fly. The camera trio would need names, distinguishing personalities, and a reason the standoffish Thackeray would choose to keep them close.

The reason I found was friendship, and the foursome’s group dynamic ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book. They’ve got the banter.

Demario: “Aw, that’s sweet, Kyle. But you didn’t have to make us breakfast. Especially if it smells like that.”

Mattson: “What’s the matter, D? You don’t like to start your morning with a hearty bowl of silver nitrate porridge, just like /tu abuela/ used to make?”

Brady: “What was her /abuela/, a murderer?”

Demario: “Maybe she was a Vampire Hunter.”

Thackeray: “Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.”

They’ve got the history.

Demario snorted. “Since when are the Vampire Hunter’s opponents /not/ faster and stronger than him? And since when has that mattered? You don’t need to be faster and stronger, because you’re /smarter/. Like, obnoxiously brilliant. I hated your guts for it through most of high school, then I got over it and decided to ride on the coattails of your genius all the way to the top. This isn’t the top yet,” she clarified. “When they offer you a movie deal based on your head-to-head match with a were-vamp and let me be director of cinematography, /that’ll/ be the top.”

They’ve got the bestie know-how.

“Don’t worry about the blood. One, it’s not fresh, just what’s been soaked into my stake over the show’s run. And two, the boiling solution ought to sterilize whatever potency it may have retained.”

“And three?” Mattson said.

Thackeray blinked toward the couch, perplexed. “Three what?”

“I don’t know,” said Mattson, a laughing light in his eyes. “There’s just usually a third thing, with you.”

Most important of all, they’ve got the love.

Thackeray thought he had mastered indifference toward all but two things: Blood, and his secret’s protection. But now he was forced to face the fact that his best friends made up a third thing. And he would really rather that they didn’t die.

…For whatever the love of someone like Thackeray Kyle is worth.

In honor of my fave “So Super Dead” friends – (and because, Cait @ Paper Fury and I agree, non-romantic ships in YA deserve 200% of the love) – here’s a list of other friendships I’ve published that fill my heart with feels:

Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale (Outlaws of Avalon) = My BrOTP ‘til the end of forever. Book 2 refers to Will’s behind-the-scenes attempts to steer the ship in a romantic direction, but Allyn wasn’t in a place to go for that, so by Book 3, they work out something better: Brothers of the heart. Watching them fight for each other or go gooey over their matching tattoos will never not make my spirit ugly-cry.

Scarlet-a-Dale Soundwave

Crown Prince Ionquin Wyle and Princess Laraspur (The Wilderhark Tales) = This brother/sister pair have been in it together since they were rambunctious youngsters (see appearances in “The Seventh Spell”, “The Song Caster”, and “The Sky-Child”), but the depth of their relationship really shone through during their quest for the moon in “The Sun’s Rival”. They see each other – and if you don’t think that’s as heartwarming as any romance, I dunno what to tell ya.

Sir Wilbur Lamb and Uriel (Inspired) = Their author’s death brought them together, and mutual respect for one another keeps ‘em thus. …Which is saying something, since Uri doesn’t really make it a point to respect anyone lower than God. Over the course of the “Inspired” duology, we see each push the other toward their better selves – friendship at its finest.

Marion Hood and Little John (Outlaws of Avalon) = It’s the little things, man. Him letting her sit in his lap while the band strategized magical artifact recovery, Book 1. Her whispering encouragement in the bushes for him to follow his heart, Book 2. Every Merry Man pairing has its own unique energy, and something about her soft sparkle with his silent solidity results in a really cute, comfortable connection.

Edgwyn Wyle and Crown Princess Rosalba (The Wilderhark Tales) = So yeah, they’re also married, but first and foremost, they’re BFFs. Whether they’re questing side by side or separated by time and space, running a kingdom or raising their little ones, his heart and humor will keep her spirits up, and her queenly core will hold him in awe. ‘Tis beautiful music they make together.

Loren McCaughley and Eddie Millerson (Outlaws of Avalon) = It’s an ex-romance, but they’re still close friends; almost entirely sans awkwardness, even. A mutual love of Renaissance Faires, minstrelsy, classic lit, and Loren’s sister Janey keep them knit tight. Take note, menfolk: This is how you shoulder the “friend zone”.

Annabelle Iole Gray and Mach Jenius (Out of My Head) = Mach is one manic muse, but he cares SO HARD. Much of that caring, we see directed toward author Annabelle, for whom the cost of her wildest dream coming true is drastic loneliness. She gives Mach a home, and he gives her his heart, complete with his first-class cheerleading skills. Team Machabelle*, all the way.

*(My first attempt at giving them a ship name. Thoughts?)

Robin Hood and Arthur Pendragon (Outlaws of Avalon) = Straight up, we don’t get to see half enough of this pair together in the trilogy, because Camelot takes a backseat to all the Sherwood shenanigans. But the chess game flashback in Book 1 and “Reverence” story in “Truly Great Words Never Die” offer a glimpse of the alliance between these two kings, and I’m here for it. (Expect at least one more quality Robin/Arthur scene when #CamelotWIP comes to town.)

Doctor-King Villem Deere and Gant-o’-the-Lute (The Wilderhark Tales) = Candidly, Lute makes for a cavalier, prickly, flighty friend. Hence his barely having any. Villem is a rare exception – at a guess, because he sits smack in the golden zone of neither worshipping Lute (Viralei and Allyn’s mistake) nor belittling him (Wendara’s bad), simply acknowledging him as valid. It’s a shame they had so little time together, on page and off; extended doses of Villem’s healing presence could only have been to Lute’s good.

Who are YOUR fave fictional friendships? Which squad is your goal? Tell all in the comments, amigos! (And if you’ve already read / are planning to read “So Super Dead”, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon, please & thanks!)

So Super Dead cover, remix 02.3, gallery

The ghost: Sure, seventeen-year-old Brenna hadn’t thought much of her life, but she’s not about to take her murder lying down. With one death to live and nothing left to lose, Brenna’s out for vengeance. Trouble is, her murderer’s already dead.

The killer: The reality of TV star Thackeray Kyle, the Vampire Hunter, is not the kind one lives to tell about. He’ll do whatever it takes – and take out whomever he must – to keep his secret safe. If only he could get his dead conscience to quit haunting him…

The talker: Agender mutant teen Nicky finally has himmer’s superpower, and s/he’s ready to save the world. …Or, y’know, talk to dead people, since that’s really all s/he can do. But now, caught between a responsibility to Brenna, a debt to a closeted monster, and the inevitability of a super-villainous terrorist attack, Nicky’s scrambling for the right words to bring two lifeless friends peace and prove himmerself a hero. Because if s/he doesn’t, the world’s dead will number far more than one ghost-whisperer can handle.

So Super Dead” – available here (Amazon paperback), here (Amazon ebook), and here (Barnes & Noble ebook)!

Tag, You’re First! (Or Something Like That)

Once upon sometime in June I suppose, I discovered (here) a set of questions calling themselves “The First Tag”. The theme? Writerly firsts. The appeal for me? Obvious.

So what are we waiting for? First things first…

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Who was the first character you ever wrote?

My first actually named, wholly original, given-a-full-story character I can recall was Jesse Cassidy – a middle-school-aged tomboy who liked to bake and hated her classmates but ended up spending most of her time with them anyway. Over a number of years, I wrote her a whole series of chapter books, starting with…

What was the first story you ever finished?

… “How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour”. In short summary: Jesse finds herself enrolled in a summer ballet class against her will, and is subjected to the disaster that is her (and her hated classmates’) amateur performance of “The Nutcracker”. In retrospect, it was not a great work of literature. But the fun of writing it ensured I would keep making words until I learned how to do it better.

Old School Oscar, Michael, and Jason
Super old sketch of the three boys Jesse would deign to call her friends.

What was the first piece of writing advice you ever heard? Or what was the first bit of advice you used and it actually worked?

Advice? I don’t know. I’ve spent so much time ignoring the voices around me in favor of the voices in my head, that I can’t recall an answer for this one.

Who was your first villain?

Santa Claus’s murderer.

(Would love to go into greater detail about him, but I’m actually planning to make a draft of his story presentable for publication someday, so we’ll all just have to be varying levels of patient!)

Dark Elf Waits
My first (badly shopped, lol) portrait of my OG villain.

What was the first storyworld you ever built?

My first deliberately fantastical world (not, y’know, what was supposed to be a regular world, but that turned out to have a murdered Santa Claus) was called Ohlhallaveil – or, translated from the High Language to English, the Dream World / World of the Dream. I’m not sure yet how to move forward with the first version of the Dream World I wrote, but different forms of it can be found elsewhere in Deshipley canon. ‘Tis a flexible world, like that. And a persistent one.

World of the Dream 2
Poster concept for Book 1 of my first crack at a fantasy series.

What did your first attempt at worldbuilding or mapmaking look like?

Pretty sure my first cartographic attempts were treasure maps that had nothing to do with writing. I was just a kid who liked using up paper on art projects of questionable worth – maps to nowhere, faux subpoenas, a ventriloquist dummy…

When was your first crush-on-your-own-character? I know it happened, don’t lie to me.

I can sometimes find it hard to discern the line between an actual crush and a non-crush fixation, but there was no denying how hard I fell for Edgwyn Wyle when I met him in “The Stone Kingdom”. Earlier than that, though, may have been a brilliant teacher by the name of Frank Llewellyn. Perhaps not coincidentally, he and Edgwyn had a number of traits in common – big build, warm and friendly nature, green eyes ever twinkling in amusement… I definitely had a type.

What was the first character death you ever had to write and how did you handle it?

Pretty sure that was Santa. My first crack at it lacked the emotional intensity of later drafts, but then, Teen Author Me tended to turn up her nose at killing off characters in the first place.

Don’t worry. She grew into a proper psychopath.

When did you first decide that your book needed a full-blown series?

For Jesse Cassidy’s books, I just didn’t want to stop writing them; I liked throwing her and the other kids into new situations, simply to see how they’d [mis]behave. It was different with, say, The Wilderhark Tales, where I didn’t need there to be more books until I’d happened to write two … and fell for Edgwyn. And with The Outlaws of Avalon, it was going to be just “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (currently available for free, via the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale!) as a standalone, but then the darn characters kept growing in my head, to the point where they needed more on-paper stories to contain them. So you never know from whence the motivation will hail.

When was the first time you stepped out of your comfort zone to write a new genre?

Phenomenon 2
Cover/poster/whatever concept for my ACTUAL first fantasy novel.

I was going to cite Ohlhallaveil again, but I JUST REMEMBERED that it wasn’t my first foray into high fantasy. Before that, there was the world of “Phenomenon” – in which people were born semi-asexually out of a special pool of water, and if nobody claimed you as part of their family that was Bad News, and suddenly – Worse News! – monsters were coming out of the pool and making a menace of themselves, so our heroine – named Heroine – and her friends went off on a quest to figure out the problem’s source, the better to save the day… The book wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but with a bit of revision, I daresay it would be perfectly at home with much of the YA fantasy on shelves today.

Phenomenon, Journey Begins
Illustration of Heroine and friends setting out on their first adventure.

What was it like using a prompt for the first time?

I don’t recall, but I expect it was no more nor less challenging than writing without a prompt. It’s all just putting one word in front of the other.

Opening line: share your first, your favorite, and your most recent.

First, for all intents and purposes:

You know, on the whole, I really love my mom. Seriously. But sometimes, I really wish she were someone else’s mom. Like someone on Mercury, maybe. One particular instance comes to mind.

– “How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour”, circa 2000

Villem Deere 10
My first completed portrait of Doctor Villem Deere.

Favorite – if I absolutely have to choose – by virtue of its simplicity and the pattern it set:

Doctor Villem Deere was not easily surprised.

– “The Swan Prince”, published 2013

Most recent:

The most tiresome thing about war, thought Calia, /born of Knossos, first king of Yassar/, was how it made a hostage of her in the name of preventing her capture.

– A short story (February 2018) I was gonna submit somewhere, but missed the deadline, so it’s chilling out in the drawer for now

What was your first ending like?

“How the Nutcracker Suite Went Sour” went out like it came in: With Jesse complaining.

What was the first ship you ever wrote and, be honest, did you make them a ship name?

Hmm… I think Jesse maybe had a crush called Blue Jay, at one point? If ship names were even a thing, way back then, I didn’t know about it. What would they have been, anyway? Blue Jesse? In any case, she went on to get together with her best friend instead, naturally. I guess that pair could have been McCassidy…

What year was your first NaNo[WriMo]?

The year of our Lord, 2010.

Allyn Ballad Cover.png
My first artwork in honor of the NaNo ‘10 novel that first took me to Avalon Faire

Which novel is memorable for being the first one you ever gave up on?

Oh mercy, I’ve given up on any number of novels – not to mention the novels I haven’t given up on per se, I just don’t know if/when I’ll ever pick up work on them again. But the most memorable surrender has to be the second of my two NaNo 2012 projects, “Singer of Skycastle”. I recycled some of it into “A Mind Prone to Wander” (as seen in “Steel & Bone: Nine Steampunk Adventures” and soon to be re-released in “Our Hungering Hearts”), but the full-length work I had in mind never made it off the ground. Which only goes to show that you can be a word boss like me and still have a tale get the better of you.

When did you first share your work with someone else and how did they react?

My sisters showed little appreciation for having my dozens of early-author-effort stories forced upon them. X)

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And that is that! Any author types reading this who want to play along? Tag! You’re next! Share your firsts in your own blog post, or down in the comments. ^o^

 

Behind the Talette: The Soul Shepherdess (Part 1)

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

Maybe you couldn’t tell from the opening poem, title tale, and closing chapter of “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”, or the recent post centered around my emerging bond with Rosie, but the minstrel point of view is a favorite of mine. And like “The Sky-Child”, the next four installments of my Wilderhark Talettes will be all about how the Wilderhark world gained a special songster – one you’ve not met before, though the name does make a cameo appearance in Book 6.5

“Gant-o’-the-Lute,” he returned the greeting. “So, that’s you, is it? Wasted no time getting started with an instrument of your own, I see. Who did you find to apprentice you, then? Barden-a-Tor? Balladry Sol?”

– Ioan-o’-the-North in “The Sky-Child”

Balladry Sol. The answer to a question that once did I wonder: Are any Wilderhark minstrels girls?

Not often, it turns out. Hardly any at all. Or at least, such was the case before Lute’s time. But in “The Soul Shepherdess” – Part 1 shared on Channillo today – we meet an exception: An out-of-the-ordinary little girl with a musical destiny.

And as we all know by now, you can’t have a Wilderhark minstrel story without music. Each chapter of “The Soul Shepherdess” will include at least one original song – which are well enough to read about, but better yet to hear. So for today’s “Behind the Talette” treat, I’ve recorded a video of me and my lute performing the very first composition of she who’ll become Ballady Sol. Ladies, gentlemen, and whoever else, I present to you, “Glass-Light Goodnight” (as shared on my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page).

Glass-Light Goodnight Still

For the touching tale of how this song came to be, make sure you’re subscribed to the Wilderhark Talettes on Channillo, and this story and more shall be yours, all yours!

NaNoWriMo, What Are You to Me?

2010: The year I was first told of you, at just about October’s start. The year I stepped out with no expectations, just a challenge I was itching to meet. 50,000 words, 30 days. A longer book than I normally wrote, but not too terribly intimidating, since I went in with a plan.

NaNo '10 Cover PicAn idea inspired by my home Ren Faire’s Robin Hood. The delightful discovery that my Merry Minstrel was descended of none other than Gant-o’-the-Lute. My main character and I getting to know each other at the same, adventuresome pace. A side character in scarlet, willing and eager from Day 1 to step up to the plate and deliver whatever I needed. A girl and her Thief Lord lurking foxlike in the forums.

My first NaNoWriMo, you were the one of new beginnings.

2011: The year I set you aside for psalm-making. A poem or song a day, working to heat up my sub-satisfactory spiritual life with my fiery passion for words. A more solitary endeavor, followed by a December of drafting a novel just past the official month of writerly hoopla.

Inspired Mock Cover

It was half like having two NaNos, and half like having none at all. And in the end, I’d managed a bit of soul food and the first iteration of my debut published novel, INSPIRED.

My second NaNoWriMo, you were the one of faith in treasure yet unseen.

2012: The year I upped the ante, trying for not one novel, but two, in addition to my trip to California – to Tirzah, and to San Francisco’s Night of Writing Dangerously. Memories of starting precisely at midnight – a frustrating false start, with a voice I was too tired to get quite right. Of starting over, moving on stronger, pushing myself to cover ground as fast as perfectionism allowed. Of struggling to focus even as I got my hair did [sic] in braids so I wouldn’t have to fuss over it while I was out of town.

NaNo '12 Cover Pic

Novel One cooperated, wrapping up in a demented 12 days. Novel Two… oh, Novel Two, who knows when I’ll ever finish you? In my defense, you lied to me, but that’s another story, perhaps for another day. Between being led on a wild goose chase by a petulant protagonist, the glorious distraction of my best friend at my side, the lure of my heart’s city, and the overawing shindig that is THE NaNo write-in, I may have produced the words, but they were nothing like a novel.

My third NaNoWriMo, you were the one that defied all expectations.

2013: The year I couldn’t settle on a project. It was not for any lack of ideas. New concepts came and went, replaced by yet more, no sooner decided upon than abandoned for— for what? Something better? It didn’t have to be better. It just had to be right. And nothing at all was speaking to me. Nothing was singing to my discontented soul.

NaNo '13 Cover Pic

Three hours to the midnight kickoff, and I still wasn’t sure, but there wasn’t time, so I chose almost at random from the string of ideas I’d played with for a month. So close to the deadline, I was a mess of nerves, fearful of repeating the failure that was NaNo ’12, Part 2. Rarely has the blank page seemed so full of potential doom. But the words came, and with them, the story. And within that story, I released the kraken.

My fourth NaNoWriMo, you were the one as changeable as the sea.

2014: The year I mean to see my way to the conclusion of the Wilderhark Tales. The first new Wilderhark Tale I’ve written in years, the others close to completed when I decided to take the plunge and publish. For the first time, I’m working under the burden of expectation, and in the countdown leading up to the event’s start, the pressure was driving me nuts, to the point where I said to myself, “Y’know what? Screw this. The only way to be less nonsensically afraid of this thing is to just start writing it. And NaNo is not the boss of you. Now’s neither the time nor place to be the punctilious rule-follower you’ve ever been. Put on your writer pants and seize the day!

So on Wednesday, October 29th, I branded myself a NaNo Rebel by starting work on the book’s opening chapter.

My fifth NaNoWriMo, you are the one I reclaimed as my own.

NaNo was made for the author, not the author for NaNo. I don’t know what surprises are in store for me this writing month, but as far as victory is concerned, I’m already feeling like I’ve won more than the certificate waiting at the end of it all.

Who out there is sprinting toward the finish line with me? ^^

The Face of Five

Happy (belated) blogiversary to me! September 1st of 2011 saw the very first Ever On Word blog post, and just look at what all’s happened since then: More than 4.5 hundred posts in the archives, blog hops and blog tours, hosting guests and being hosted, pics, gifs, Will Scarlet holding my Saturdays hostage… and, of course, intermittent hurrahs to do with whatever professional publication things are hitting the market. Case in point: Today I am elated to reveal the cover of the fifth book in my series of fairytale retelling novellas. Behold!

Sun's Rival Cover, front

Next to the uncommon beauty of her sisters, Princess Laraspur feels invisible, until she learns the two most powerful kings in the world have their eyes fixed upon her. But the ensuing double-courtship goes horribly awry, requiring Laraspur to brave the secret perils of earth, sea, and sky, on a quest that will try the very essence of her being.

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The Sun’s Rival (Book Five of The Wilderhark Tales)

I cannot sing the praises of my cover artist loudly enough. Yana Naumova, you knock my socks off harder every time!

Since this cover-revealing anniversary has got me in a festive mood, here are five fun facts about Wilderhark Tale number five!

1) I actually drafted this book ahead of Book Four, because I had an inkling about where I wanted to take this chapter of the series, whereas Gant-o’-the-Lute had yet to divulge his plans for “The Song Caster”.

2) Unlike the other Wilderhark Tales to date, my main inspiration for “The Sun’s Rival” wasn’t a fairytale, but the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.

3) This is the first Wilderhark Tale driven by sibling relationships, of both the positive and, erm, not to be imitated varieties.

4) It is really hard to compile these five facts for you, because so much of the cool stuff I want to tell you does not comply with the rules of my spoiler-free zone. So I just really need everyone to read this book upon release so we can discuss it freely, okay?

5) This young adult romance adventure is slated to share a book birthday with another publication of mine; J. Taylor Publishing’s “One More Day” anthology (featuring my short story, “A Morrow More”) launched on a December 2nd, too!

“The Sun’s Rival” is currently available to add to your Goodreads shelves (you can do so here. Anytime, now. At your leisure), and will be ready for purchase no later than the official release date of December 2, 2014. ‘Tween now and then, keep your eyes open for excerpts, bookmark giveaways, and any other awesomeness my brain may come up with at the last minute (like it does).

ALSO, I am currently seeking folks willing to give e-ARCs (advance reader copies) of the book an early read ‘n’ review! Qualifications are minimal: Just do your darnedest to read “Sun’s Rival” and post your honest opinion of it (on Goodreads, your blog/social media platform of choice, and Amazon/Barnes and Noble.com), preferably before or on the book’s release date. Interested parties may leave a request in the comments section below or shoot me a message via my contact page.

Thanks in the meantime to all the awesome people who are helping me share the face of “Sun’s Rival” all over the interwebs; you guys get all the Cyber Brownies of Gratitude. ^_^

So-o-o-o? What’s everybody think of the cover?! 8D

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.

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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

<> ~  <> ~ <>

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