Word on the Wind: Surrogate Sea review and character interview

It’s here, the book we’ve all been waiting for ever since its magnificent cover reveal: Wilderhark Tales book six, The Surrogate Sea! (If you weren’t waiting for it, why on earth not? Have you not read the other Wilderhark Tales? Ah, well, we won’t hold it against you, so long as you repent and change your ways.)

One thing I’ve always appreciated about the covers of the Wilderhark Tales novellas is that you can actually judge the books by them: they’re beautiful, they’re stylistically different from most of what one sees on the market, and each one seems better than the last.

Opening with tears and danger, and ending with tears and love, this may well be my favorite of the tales to date–but then, I’ve always favored twisty plots, broken hearts, and the machinations of trickster gods.

Oh, maybe Austeryn isn’t a proper deity, but the manipulative master of rain and fog is certainly a capital-T Trickster. The elemental shrouds everyone’s plotlines in such thick deception, there’s little guessing where the tale will end up. Personally, I like to be kept guessing, I like to be surprised, and I love to root for a sneaky antihero.

(I also love rainstorms, but that’s nearly tangential.)

To date, Miss Shipley has written mildly rocky tales, fraught with as much amusement as angst, and tidily tied up with a happily-ever-after-until-next-time. In The Surrogate Sea, she maintains her wry-and-dry humor, but weaves a terrible tangle that can only end in tears. Whose? There’s no telling.

This book hurts. It hurt the characters, it hurt me, and it’ll probably hurt you.

Maybe I’m an awful person, but I love it for that.

Amazon ~ CreateSpace ~ Kindle ~ Nook
If you pick it up quick, you could be eligible to
win cool prizes as outlined over at D.E. Shipley’s Ever On Word blog.

But before anyone goes anywhere (oh, fine, pop off to pick up the book first if you’d like, but do come back,) Sy and I have a few questions for the sly South Wind mentioned–and beautifully pictured–above.

Welcome to our blog, Austeryn. Would you explain to our readers what your specialty is?

“It’s all in the name, really,” says the wind, smiling. “The meaning of ‘Austeryn’ is what I am: Slaker of the earth’s thirst. My jurisdiction is warm, water-laden air. I bring the rain and mists, general humidity and dew. Essentially, if it’s damp out, it’s my doing.”

Being air and water, you could assume any form you choose. Why that of a man, and why this one in particular?

“Oh, I don’t always choose to look like this. I’ve adopted any number of appearances, over the ages – winged creatures, water creatures… the Sea has been known to enjoy when I take the seeming of a leviathan. But the human shape is my second favored default, after formless invisibility, because the Sky’s kings are human-shaped. You know how it goes,” he drawls. “The powerful and well-to-do set the fashion.

“As for why I chose these specific features, that was a matter of personal taste. Hair black like a storm, long that it might fly wild and free as the rest of me. Musculature that, were I merely a man, would suggest I am one of the stronger of my kind, for I am indeed among the strongest of the winds. And eyes fogged over that they might not be too easily read. Too many people give up their secrets through their gaze,” he tsks. “I am not so careless.”

 You denizens of the sky have something of a rocky family relationship, from what I’ve seen. Who are your favorite Welken elementals, and who are your least favorites?

“I make it a point to get along with everyone, as much as may be. The more people who feel you’re on their side, the friendlier they’ll be toward you, and that just makes life easier. Of course, my heart will always belong to the Great Sea, but as she is not strictly of the world above, I will limit my answers to Sky residents only.

“Of those,” he says, musing, “I would say I am closest with my elder brother, Aquinore. The arctic wind is something of a brute, but I rather like that about him. I can rely on him to be simple and sadistic; little to no unpredictabiltiy. Our younger brother, Euroval, is just as endearingly cruel, but more erratic. Peskier, too, though his thunder and lightning do add undeniable panache to my rainstorms. I have the least use of all for our little sister.” His lip pulls into a subtle sneer. “So small. So sweet. So… Sun-favored.”

“You have a certain reputation for clever manipulation,” Sy notes. “One sly bastard to another, could you relate the most satisfying victory you ever won with cunning? Spoilers excepted, naturally.”

“Well…” Austeryn’s humble tone is belied by the set of his smile. “I suppose there was that one small instance in which my silver tongue saved the world. Perhaps you’ve read an account of it – or your author may have, as it was published some time ago in a literary journal in her world. I’ve heard it rumored that my own scribe means to re-release it in her next Wilderhark Tale book – a collection of short stories to precede the final volume in the series. I’ll admit I’m pleased,” he says, mists swirling in his gust of anticipation. “I may not be the hero my world deserves, but I was certainly the one it needed right then.”

“You watched from the wings as your two kings vied for the hand of a human princess. Did you think it foolish? What was your personal view of humankind—and has it changed?”

“I thought it… peculiar,” Austeryn says cautiously. “All the millions of human girls that have ever lived, and both Sun and Moon get their hearts set on one? I’ve personally never seen what all the fuss is about. And though the fact that the kings’ appearance is so human-like may be indicative of some correlation or another between them, humans have more in common with insects than with a wind, scurrying little ground creatures that they are. Such do I know of humanity as a whole. But individually…” He pauses. “Perhaps a human may prove in some way worthwhile, in one takes the time and bother to figure out how.”

“One last question,” Sy says quietly, “Concerning Surrogate Sea. Your plots spun this tale in a circle and turned it on its head. Without giving anything away, can you tell me… Was it worth it?

“Worth it?” The wind’s movement lessens, his fog settling low. “Is a hurricane worth it? Does the beautiful, breathtaking ferocity make up for the ruin of property and loss of life? Not many would say so. But worries of ‘worth it’ will not stop a gale. I blow as I must. And the earth is resilient.” He rises to go, hooded eyes turned away. “Time will tell whether the same may be said of the Sky.”



  1. Profuse thanks for your gratifying assessment of the story, Tirzah, and commendations for both you and Sy for your boldness in weathering Austeryn’s presence. Don’t know where I’d be without either of ya. ❤

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