Gant-o-the-Lute

The Sky-Child and other stories

Sky-Child Cover

The cover reveal was breathtaking, to be sure, but now it’s time to look beneath the beautiful surface, and speak of its soul, its stories, and its songs. First, taken one at a time…

*****

~ Song-o-the-Lute ~
A breathtaking free-form poem in its own right, worthy of esteem. Brief as the brush of fingers on strings, it is a worthy opening to this compilation, and worthy of mention. (Clearly it was so worthy I was overcome with its worthiness.)

~ The Sky-Child ~
The longest tale herein–and the aching, melancholy beginning to the life of one Gant-o-the-Lute. Long before rescuing Villem Deere on The Seventh Spell’s roads, or destroying unnatural rock formations in The Song Caster, the incredible bard’s life brimmed with music and yearning, sweetness and sorrow, and a remarkable fight against the mundane. A spin on Jack and the Beanstalk like no other, the giant is the least of the difficulties the minstrel-in-blue takes on. As a tiny taste of its quality, I give you the excellent reworking of the traditional fee-fie, foe-fum folderol.

“Fie!” said the roar. “Is it a foe who’s come?
Do I smell the blood of a mortal man?
If foe he be, his life’s the fee
For venturing here to challenge me.
If man he be, his life’s blood red
And bones will spice my stew and bread.”

This may be my favorite story in the whole collection, but the last gives it some competition. I suppose that, as cruel as it sounds, the suffering of the incredible simply takes my breath away. But then, ‘The suffering of the incredible’ might be a line to suit most of the tales here seen.

~ Still Broken ~
A hundred-word jaunt back to Sula and Villem.

~ Day Broken ~
A vignette set just before The Swan Prince‘s opening chapters.

~ Skie Welduwark ~
A vibrant myth of the kings of the sky and the world’s waking. I find that I always love following the (often harrowing) antics of the Welkens. Perhaps it’s one of those just-human-things.

~ Starheart ~
The two intertwined hearts of The Stone Kingdom exchange enchanting tales under a starlit sky. A myth of how the stone kingdom came to be, and a myth of the forging of Wilderhark’s nations are tailored around a gentle conversation, humming with love.

~ The Shining Son ~
A story with the regular beat of a fairy tale, of pride and jealousy in the heavens. I also get to see my favorite sneaky wind working terrible deeds, so this is a win for me.

~ Affected ~
Set first behind the stone eyes of Denebdeor’s children, we watch the chaotic beginning of The Seventh Spell unfold–then on to the woman behind the curtain, as it were, the witch behind most of the magic in The Wilderhark Tales. Then to Gant-o-the-Lute, and a quiet conversation with Edgwyn, of love and hope in the dark of night. And back at last to the thoughts of the children, awaiting the breaking of the seventh spell’s tangle.

A mini-anthology in itself, this short story following the seventh spell’s affected suits the melody of this collection perfectly; passionate, funny, sweet, melancholy, and hopeful.

~ A Gallivanting Soul ~
A lute’s music tells its owner a tale known to it alone, bringing the string of stories full circle and tears to my eyes–tears for love forever lost, and tears for treasure found.

*****

Seamlessly woven together in perfect order, this Wilderhark Tales collection can stand proudly next to any of the novellas. (A good thing, too; as book six-and-a-half, it will likely stand between The Surrogate Sea and the series’ final volume.) D. E. Shipley’s prose is beautiful and melodic, almost lyrical, her characters as lovable and exasperating as ever, (you know I’m looking at you, Lute–and a fine view it is, too,) and her wit as charming as ever.

A fantastic anthology for any readers, workable as a standalone, the abundant easter eggs would nonetheless be most appreciated by readers of the previous six Wilderhark novellas.

This lovely creation is available in Kindle and paperback forms on Amazon and on Nook with Barnes and Noble.

 

The Sky Child and Other Tales: Cover Reveal

Today is the cover reveal for The Sky Child and Other Stories (The Wilderhark Tales, book 6 and a half,) by Danielle E. Shipley.

Blurb:
Born into a world his heart knows as beneath him, an extraordinary boy becomes a man of music, hopeful that someday he’ll find a way higher.

As the first day dawns, a world comes awake, order and disorder striking a dangerous balance.

Under the stars, a princess and tailor trade age-old lore, little dreaming of the future that could trap them in the past.

All of it in, around, and far above the timeless trees of Wilderhark, the forest whose secrets reveal themselves slowly, if ever at all.

Tales of beginnings. Tales of quests for belonging. Most of all, tales of true love.

Once upon a time, you knew something of Wilderhark’s tales. Now for the stories that fall in between.

Sky-Child Cover

You can find The Sky-Child and Other Stories on Goodreads

About the Author:
Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. …Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing, publishing, and all that authorial jazz, she’s probably blogging about it.

Writing credits include: “Inspired” (a novel); short stories in paranormal, fantasy, and Steampunk anthologies via Xchyler Publishing; and, of course, her series of fairytale retelling mash-ups, “The Wilderhark Tales”.

You can find and contact Danielle here:
Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest ~ Amazon ~

EXCERPT:

A farmer’s life was irreconcilably different from that of a traveling entertainer. It was the sort of life where years were marked in seasons, not in miles; a life of sameness where, rising morning after morning on the same piece of land, one got to know that piece of land as well as one’s own self. …Assuming, that is, that one could be induced to take any part in the never-ending tilling and sowing and growing and reaping – all tasks in which Jackillen took no interest whatsoever.

For the most part, his adoptive father would let him alone. Not so at harvest time. During the late summer and autumn months, virtually every creature breathing was called upon to do its share. And though Jackillen may have been able to get by well enough with little food and sleep, breathing was an essential he was unprepared to go without.

Jeromey first assigned Jackillen the simple task of helping to dig up the ripe root vegetables, but soon observed with dismay that the youth appeared to wilt a little more with every row.

“It’s this business of rooting about in the dirt,” Jackillen said droopily, when questioned. “Everything focused down, down, and farther down… It’s torment. I don’t want to burrow deeper into the earth, I want to be free of it – I want to fly!” He tipped back his head to stare with longing at the vivid blue expanse above him. “What I wouldn’t give to reach the sky…”

In all truth, Jeromey Gant understood his son as little as Jackillen did him, and was at a loss in trying to comprehend how such a lively, sturdy body and personality could coexist with such a strangely sensitive spirit. Whatever the reason, it was at least clear that this particular aspect of the harvest did not at all suit the lad, so Jackillen was reassigned to the barn, under instruction to thresh the freshly harvested grains.

Hours later, Jeromey thought he had better go see whether the boy found his new chore to be more to his liking, or if he considered the dust of the beaten wheat or the confinement of the barn to be killing him by inches. He got as far as poking his head around the door. Then he froze, mouth agape, eyes blinking repeatedly as they attempted to make sense of the sight before him.

Everything in the barn was in motion. The grain swirled through the air in a golden cyclone. Twirling in the center of it all, smiling and laughing with delight, was Jackillen, a stout wooden staff a whirring blur in his hands. The spinning staff stirred the air, holding the grains aloft, and rapidly rapped out again and again, beating the wheat as it whirled past.

The late afternoon sunlight slowly waned as the implausible scene continued until, upon some variation of Jackillen’s extraordinary dance, the wheat rode the air into the harvest sieve, the edible grain separating from the unwanted chaff. Then at last, his work completed, Jackillen let the air go still and lowered himself to one knee, visibly fatigued, but just as visibly pleased.

He gave no sign as to whether Jeromey’s presence was a surprise or had been long since noted, only announcing cheerfully, “Threshing’s done.”

Jeromey stared at the boy in silence for another moment before remarking, “Most people can’t do that, you know.”

Jackillen grinned, the color of his eyes brighter and more erratic than ever. “Oh, yes, I never doubted that. But I am not most people: I’m Jackillen Gant.” He leapt to his feet and breezed through the doors past his father, turning to add in casual afterthought, “I can do anything, you know.”

No, Jeromey hadn’t known. And “anything” was a big enough word that he wasn’t prepared to admit he knew any such thing even now. However, he thought it reasonable to assume, if ever there were someone capable of anything, that one would most likely be Jackillen Gant.

 *****

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Starring: The Song Caster

 

Hey, Syawn here. Today we welcome the bright and shining star of the recently released Wilderhark Tales novella, The Song Caster, a minstrel-come-prince running off on one last adventure before facing the music of an impending marriage and the crown that comes with it.

Time for a little character-to-character confidential. (The sort of confidential that gets blasted to any eyes that happen upon my corner of the internet, naturally.)

So, Gant-o-the-Lute. You’re originally based on “And The Beanstalk” Jack. How do you feel about your literary predecessor? And how do you think that you and your stories stand out from the original?

“Ah, Jack,” says Lute, his smile amused. “The boy who sold the family’s lone source of income for a handful of beans on a stranger’s word they were magic. Points off, there, for lack of survivalist sense. Still, when the beanstalk sprouted, up he climbed, none put off from the sky’s treasures even when confronted with a man-eating monster. That’s daring! Daring, we share.”

“But then what? He makes off with the goods, chops the stalk down to nothing, and wallows in wealth the rest of his days, The End?” Lute shakes his head. “Thank you, no. The prize is not the prize; the going after it is. I don’t mean to stop seeking adventure one way or another ‘til the day I die.” His eyebrows lift. “Nor do I mean to die.”

A halfway reasonable hope, considering; fantasy is your genre, with fairy tale as your sub genre. But suppose for a moment that you could choose the world and writing for your tale—what genre would you inhabit?

Lute’s eyes shine between blue and green as he considers. “Hmm. The fantasy aspect, I’d be inclined to keep. I can hardly imagine a life in which I am not in some way magic. The fairytale qualities, however, I could do without. Give me a world with a bit more darkness to face. Give me fell creatures out to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. Give me cause to stand and fight with valor through bloody days and hopeless nights.” He smiles, wide and bright with rapture, breathless. “I’d ne’er know a moment of boredom again.”

As demonstrated in The Song Caster, you are proficient with just about any instrument (magical or otherwise) that comes under your fingers. So what made you choose the lute as your dominant instrument?

Lute’s fingers stroke the instrument in question, his expression gone tender. “It was much like the choosing of a mate. A matter of finding the music with which I best connected. Perhaps not just any lute would do it, but this one was given to me by someone I… valued.”

His gaze falls to the wooden shape cradled in his arms. “Therefore did I value my lute all the more. And it has ever played true for me. We’ve forged a bond, the songs of our souls twined in harmony. I can make music with any instrument, but not just any can make music with me. Thus am I not Jackillen Gant only, but Gant-o’-the-Lute.”

As your last hurrah before leaving the wandering path for confinement to a single (if highly musical) kingdom, what were you hoping for from this adventure? And how much did the reality differ from your hope?

“I’d hoped…” He trails off, his gaze faraway. “I don’t know what I hoped,” he whispered. “I only wanted more time. More space. One more chance for something to happen to me, and for me to happen to it. I just wasn’t ready to go still. I suppose,” he chuckles, “it was something like fear. To marry, to settle down onto a throne, is an unknown even I shy from exploring.”

“Funny enough, you could say the purpose of my journey was much like my travel companion’s: Both off to brace up and find the courage we needed to be kings. And I did find things inside of me I never thought I would. Found so much, lost so much… The last adventure of my youth did nothing to curb my desire for more, but it did effect a change in me – perhaps enough of one that I may live chained to castle with my spirit intact.”

Suppose that a career in minstrelsy had been barred in the first place. (Get it? Bard? …Nevermind.) Hardly imaginable, I know, but what path might you have taken to in its stead?

“Huzzah for wordplay,” Lute says dryly. “But if, for argument’s sake, I could not be a traveling musician, I expect I would have opted to be a traveling something else. Someone who goes out and acquires rare things from dangerous places and hands them off to people in retail, perhaps. Or at the least, if helpless rich people visiting between lands could use a guide and protector, I could easily provide. Or,” he laughs, “I could give up honest employment as a bad job and rob my way across the Great Land. Maybe make a profession of that!” He flashes an impish grin at Sy. “I don’t believe the area ‘round Wilderhark has nearly enough in the way of Thief Lords, do you?”

Wise man. No fantasy world–even one given to happily-ever-afters–can stand for long without its rouges and rascals. Now off to AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Createspace with you, readers, to discover just what sort of rascally rogue the daring caster of song intends to be, with his final few glorious days roaming free.

 

 

100-word wonders: Song Caster

Hey. Syawn here.I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day. Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another. Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so. Why “Song Caster”? Because I was once again paid off, and this is the day my dear friend Will Scarlet’s author debuts the cover of The Song Caster, forth and best-yet of her Wilderhark tales. Since a picture is worth a hundred words (Shhhh… let’s say it’s 100 words) I’ll go ahead and reveal the cover in its full glory…

So that was that. Any words on the tale inside, Tirzah? Or more precisely, 100 words?

*****

The Song Caster features  Benedeck (the luckless prince of Stone Kingdom’s princess-and-the-pea rendition,) led by the incorrigible minstrel in blue in on a quest for true love and a backbone.

Gant-o-the-Lute is a wandering bard based initially on Jack (of “and the beanstalk” fame), but as readers of The Seventh Spell will already know, he is so much more than that… but will this last adventure make too much of him?

The fey tale hums with musicality, tingles with the thrill Lute takes in life. It rings with the danger of limitless power’s corruption—and with that greatest power, love.

*****

And there you have it. For the official release (and more words on the matter) check out Ever On Word.