|Happy Spring, Everyone! Here in Northern Virginia where I live, spring is reaching full bloom. Every morning when I wake up there’s a new tree that has just popped with leaves or flowers, or a new sprout poking up from the mulch outside my front door. What season inspires you most? Reply and let me know!|
All of this wonderful fresh springtime energy gives me such a boost in inspiration. I have a lot of exciting new (and old) things in the pipeline, the most recent of which is my latest book collection!
Start Your Adventure Now! I’ve bundled The Keepers of the Wellsprings books 1-3 with all their beautiful color illustrations into a 3-eBook collection which includes Call of Kythshire, Call of Sunteri, and Call of Brindelier.
If you’re new to my mailing list, welcome! I invite you to start off my 5-book series with this beautiful collection. Books 4-5 are of course coming soon, with some exclusive bonus content!
If you’ve been with me a while, and already read the series, thank you so much! This is a great opportunity to consolidate your Kindle, and I’d love it if you’d take a moment to help me out by leaving a review!
I’m thrilled to announce that Call of Sunteri is now available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes! Recording is well underway for Call of Brindelier, which I expect to have available for your listening pleasure by mid to late summer, so keep an eye here for updates!
Elliot Sneak Peek
I’m coming to the end of the first draft for Elliot, and I expect to be announcing the preorder soon! In the meantime, here’s a tiny peek into his story:
|Ever since I released Call of Kythshire all the way back in March of 2015 I dreamed of having an audiobook made, but I talked myself out of it so many times for so many reasons.|
At one point I even decided to try narrating the book myself, but that adventure was quickly abandoned. It didn’t take me long to realize how time consuming it would be not just to do the reading and editing, but also to learn about all of the software and sound optimization required to make an excellent quality audiobook.
It also didn’t help that I live under the flight path of one of the busiest airports on the east coast of the USA! There was simply no way recording my books myself was going to work, so I shelved the idea for a few years.
But I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I always try to see things not as a failure, but as a learning experience. In deciding not to DIY my audiobooks I freed up more time for writing, and I learned how much time, effort, and expertise goes into audiobook production.
It gave me such an appreciation for the art that is audiobook production. And best of all, it provided the perfect timing for me to match up with the perfect narrator for the Keepers of the Wellsprings Series! I’m so delighted to introduce you to Penny Scott-Andrews, the incredibly talented narrator of Call of Kythshire!
|An Interview with Penny|
How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?
I trained as an actress at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, where my favourite part of the training was radio drama. I loved being behind the mic. After leaving Central I then toured around in theatre shows for a decade, meeting my now husband whilst acting together on Twelfth Night. As soon as I realised that we were to have a baby together, we had to look at how we could continue to work creatively as a three! We tried carrying on touring with my son in tow with us but it was exhausting, so we built a home studio to try our hand at VOs instead. After just a few weeks we were fully booked! We invested in top range recording equipment, trained ourselves thoroughly in audio production and 10 years (and another baby), later nearly all our work is narrating audiobooks. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It has all the magic of creating characters on stage, but from the comfort of home!
What about “Call of Kythshire” compelled you to audition as narrator?
I think the mention of a strong female lead character who was to become a knight really caught my attention. Then when I saw that there were to be fairies added to the mix, I was intrigued. As soon as I read a sample of the book I realised I would love to narrate it; Missy’s writing really pulls you in. It’s so beautiful to read aloud, and really takes you into another world. After I submitted my audition I checked my emails constantly as I was really keen to get this job!
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for narrating?
I run everyday, no matter what the weather. Most days involve recording for several hours back to back, but I always make sure I escape for an hour or two and run in the woods or sea front. It clears the mind and allows me to be happily still and focussed when I’m in the studio.
What’s next for you?
I am so excited to be already prepping the next book in this series, which I will be narrating with my husband Andy Cresswell. It’s always fun to work together on the voices!
Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
I am. I appreciate this will be very tedious to most people but I LOVE books about running, and I listen to them whilst out pounding the pavements or weaving my way through the woods. I particularly love biographies of ultra athletes, I find them incredibly inspiring. With my family, we love a magical tale, or a full cast audio drama, and in the car it has to be Winnie the Pooh!
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
Least favourite is when I send over my ideas of character voices to an author I haven’t worked with before. I genuinely cannot sleep until I hear back, for fear that they might hate everything I’ve come up with, or that I’ve barked up totally the wrong tree. This hasn’t happened yet, it’s always been a positive response but I think an element of imposter syndrome lingers with me! My favourite bit is often narrating a section where there are a bunch of characters together as it’s so fun having all the voices/accents coming together. Particularly so in a book like Call of Kythshire where you have such a variety of ‘normal’ people together with fairies and even talking stones!
What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
Character work and accents, and I do love comedy!
How closely do you prefer to work with authors?
As closely as they want. I think at the end of the day I need to know they are delighted with the finished product, and that they feel as proud of it as I do. I respect those who hand it over, walk away and wish to know nothing about it until they listen at the end…. but it’s really fun to work with someone like Missy who invests so much into the recording too. Knowing little insights like who she based a character on, or the backstory of where the inspiration from a section had come from etc can really help a piece come to life. And very needily, working on my own in a studio with no feedback can be lonely, with anxieties of getting a character ‘wrong’, so to have some feedback as we go through the process can be really reassuring.
Learn more about Penny and Andy on their website: https://www.bespokenvoices.com/
It has been an absolute delight listening to my characters come to life with Penny’s voice to help them, and with her husband Andy reading Tib’s narration for Call of Sunteri, I sometimes feel like I must be dreaming!
I’m saving that sneak peek for a future email, but I’m excited to share an exclusive excerpt from Call of Kythshire with you! This is Rian’s Trial, one of my favorite chapters from the first book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series.
Penny and I both wanted to use this as the retail sample for the book because we loved it so much, but in the end we decided to go with something that would be bit easier for a cold reader/listener to follow.
Click Here to Listen To Rian’s Trial!
Click Here to get your Call of Kythshire Audiobook!
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First stop on my Call of Kythshire Audiobook Blog tour is at 4 The Love of Audiobooks, where I talk about my dream cast. It would be a dream come true to have a series on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+!
It’s Valentine’s Day! To celebrate, I’m sharing some of my favorite love-filled illustrations from the Keepers of the Wellsprings series. Click on the first picture to see the gallery, and scroll down inside the gallery for the image description.
Here’s to celebrating love in every shape and form, including self-love! Wishing you a beautiful day this Valentine’s Day, and sending love to everyone.
Happy Friday! Here’s an excerpt from “His Majesty’s Elite: Elliot” which I’m still writing and hoping to have out by the summer!
The forest surrounding me is familiar but strange. Moss covered tree trunks twist unusually from the forest floor, curling in and around themselves like writhing serpents frozen in time. Obscured by clouds, the moon casts no shadow. The forest itself is shadow. I turn in place, searching to find light to turn toward, and a glint of it shines beneath the brush in the distance. When I reach it, I see that it’s not a light at all, but the reflection of candles stretched across a polished stone path.
I know this path immediately. It leads to the palace.
As soon as I put my soft boot down on it I spin out of control, swirling like I’m caught up in a whirlpool. I try to call out, to reach out and grab something, anything to stop the spinning, and when I can’t, I squeeze my eyes shut and pray to wake up.
Surprisingly, the spinning stops and I land with a thump on something that feels like the seat of a cushioned wooden chair. At first I think it works, that my pleas have woken me, but then I remember I was in my bed at home, and now I’m sitting, and the sounds and smells that close in around me don’t fit with the ones at Amma’s house.
Strange, beautiful music played on instruments I’ve never heard before sounds in my twitching ears, and when I find the courage to open my eyes again, I can’t believe what I see. The vast room could fit Grandymum herself, leaves and all, all the way up to the ceiling. Its stonework, sturdy and expertly carved, seems almost weightless as its pillars and arms push the ceiling to an elegant, glass-paned peak.
I follow the line of the pillars down from the ceiling just as I follow the tree trunks at home with my eyes, listening to laughter and voices as they blend with the music and echo across the vast space. Scattered across the polished marble floor, a crowd of dozens of interestingly dressed people weave about, mingling and dancing, gesturing gracefully with their arms while their silky gowns and velvet capes sway dreamily to the music.
At first I feel far away from it all. All I can do is stare in awe as the salty sea air tickles my nose.
Eventually, I push out of my chair to wander among them. Those at the edge of the room where I appeared stand in small groups, talking and laughing together, drinking from jeweled goblets that flash in the light.
I squint past the light that reminds me of wisps falling from trees into the throngs of dancers who move together, their steps keeping time with the beat of the music. I’ve never seen anyone dance this way before. At home when we dance, it’s wild and chaotic. Here, it’s so controlled it almost seems like they’re bound to each other. Their synchronous movements entrance me. It’s unreal. Beautiful.
I can’t tell if this is a dream or if I’m Scouting. It seems too strange to be real, but I can’t imagine it’s something my mind would have conjured up. The ladies’ gowns and lords’ jackets and hose are the rich colors of summer butterflies, shining beetles, and meadow blooms. The women sparkle with jewels adorning their hair, necks, and wrists. The men wear metal buckles and studs. Their metal sword pommels catch the light like flames.
Dazzled by the scene, I weave through the dancers and the gathered crowds, careful to avoid bumping into or walking through anyone.
“Your Majesty, I must admit this is the most impressive Springswan Ball I can remember,” says a nearby lady.
“Majesty,” I whisper and follow the voice, curious to see a king for the first time. I remember the young prince’s whispers in the night about his father, and that makes me even more curious to put eyes on him.
Ducking through a pair of dancers who gallop past, I’m momentarily distracted by the sheer amount of fabric it must have taken to make the lady dancer’s dress. I reach out for it, just to see what the shimmering skirt feels like, but my hand dips through her skirt just as I knew it would.
“Ah, your flattery is misguided,” an old voice croaks in reply. “I had nothing to do with it, except signing a thing here and there. It was mostly Master Rand’ell, of course.”
“Oh, Majesty,” purrs the lady, “You’re just being gracious as always. Shall we dance?”
I dodge around another pair of dancers and finally arrive at the talking pair. The woman, incredibly beautiful for a human, wears her raven-black hair arranged in intricate braids on top of her head, which sparkle with golden jeweled pins. Her dress is as red as a woodpecker’s crown, and so tight at the waist it seemed to push the rest of her out of it at the top. When she leans nearer to the king, I follow her gaze and step closer, fascinated by the contrast between the two humans.
The king is the oldest looking man I have ever seen. Older even than Feren, the grove’s eldest druid who has recently celebrated his hundred and eighty-seventh birthday. Dressed in a purple tunic that looks as soft as spring moss, his shoulders draped in the fur of white rabbits, he seems to compress under the weight of the crown on his head, a golden circlet that shines like midday sun in the lamplight.
“Now, now, my dear,” the king chuckles, patting the lady’s hand, “these old feet would make a fool of me. Sir Josten!” he calls to a man passing by, who pauses and bows to the king. His broad shoulders and strong fighter’s stance remind me of Father, and a pang of guilt charges through me. Don’t wander, he’d said, yet here I find myself again in the palace of Cerion.
“Majesty,” the man says with a genuine smile. “I was looking for my daughter. Have you seen her?”
“Not since we dined,” answers the king, patting the arm of the black-haired woman. “Here,” he lifts her hand gently in the knight’s direction, and she eyes Sir Josten with hint distaste. “Ciri would like to dance.”
“Of course, Majesty,” says the knight dutifully, even though he looks just as reluctant as Ciri to follow through with it. Still, she accepts his offered hand and they fall into step with the rest of the dancing crowd.
“Another cup, good page,” the king calls to a boy my age dressed in the same purple color as the king himself, who runs off eagerly to fetch it.
I follow, interested where he’ll go, but end up losing him in the crowd. Sir Josten and Ciri sweep past me and I wonder why the king would ask them to dance together when it’s so obvious they hate one another.
A breeze drifts past carrying the scent of sea salt, and I follow my nose to a grand balcony overlooking the ocean. The sun is just beginning to set in the sky, splashing pinks and oranges across the water. I’ve never seen a sunset over so much water before, so I stand watching it for a long time until a ripple of laughter steals my attention.
It’s a familiar laugh. One I have heard before.
I recognize it immediately as the prince whose bedroom I ended up in the last time I followed the polished path. Tirnon.
“What?” asks a second voice, which I’m sure it’s the girl I saw earlier in the marketplace. Lisabella.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather dance? You aren’t dressed for a spar,” the prince chuckles.
I creep closer and find a narrow ledge leading to a second, smaller terrace with a column I can peek around to watch them.
“I might need to fight in a dress at some point.” Lisabella faces the prince, holding a wooden training sword out to him. “You never know.”
“Lisabella,” Tirnon laughs, “where did you get a training sword?”
“A lady never tells her secrets,” she replies with a dainty curtsy. Their eyes dance with a warm familiarity that makes me think of Hana. With a mischievous smile, Lisabella shakes out her skirt and jiggles her foot, and a second wooden sword clatters to the stone floor.
The prince’s laughter echoes across the terrace. He holds his stomach, and I can’t help but laugh along with him. His amusement infects Lisabella, too, until they’re both hugging their stomachs, doubled over. The idea of a girl dressed so splendidly smuggling wooden swords into an elegant dance like this is ridiculous, even to me with no knowledge of this land’s customs.
I stop laughing, though, when the prince turns to look straight at me.
“Did you see? Did you see that?” he asks, still laughing.
I take a step back, certain he’s seen me but unsure how he ever could, until from beside me, a third person I hadn’t noticed clears his throat disapprovingly. Relieved the prince didn’t spot me after all, I relax a little and lean forward to look. Hidden on the other side of the pillar, the throat-clearing man holds the side of his fist to his lips, clearly trying hard not to join in laughing. It only takes a moment for me to realize he’s a warrior, too. A guardian of some kind, I gather, from the way he glances around to watch for threats.
“Leave Finn out of it.” Lisabella says. She collects herself, holding up her sword in a salute. “Wait, maybe you’d rather go in and dance?”
“Now you’re just taunting me,” answers the prince, still grinning as he returns her salute with his wooden weapon. “There’s far too much red in there for my taste.”
Red, I think to myself. Too much red.…
Excerpt from “His Majesty’s Elite: Elliot” a “Keepers of the Wellsprings” prequel.
Copyright 2021 Missy Sheldrake
Have you read Mya yet?
When she discovers her screams can bring men to their knees, will one young woman stay silent or give voice to righteousness?
Happy Writing Wednesday! I’m spending today writing chapter 17 of Elliot, which is a nice, juicy chapter involving a midnight hunt and a wicked Sorcerer who went too far.
While I write, why not enjoy a free short story? I recently released The Princess’s New Poppet to my newsletter subscribers in ebook form AND in audiobook format, narrated by the incomparable Penny Scott-Andrews! Sign up and get yours here!
Penny and her husband Andy are currently working their way through narrating the entire Keepers of the Wellsprings series for Audible, and I’m thrilled with how it’s turning out! I can’t wait to share it with you!
Today’s Muse is Jonna Jinton, a Swedish artist who celebrates the winter and who has me convinced she’s actually a fairy. Her cinematography and artistic eye are absolutely breathtaking.
I especially love her singing ice recordings. They remind me of Connecticut in the wintertime, when I’d go out to listen to the river ice crack. It’s such a peaceful, ethereal experience to sit in the dark and listen to the ice sounds.
One of my favorite dates with my husband was a trip out to the boat launch at Lake Lillinonah, where we sat in the truck bed with sleeping bags and hot cocoa to look up at the stars and listen to the ice.
Today’s sketches were inspired by “Elliot,” the novel I’m writing now. Elliot is the second prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series after “Mya.” It’s about a boy who can shapeshift into a fox and travel through the Dreaming to places all over the world.
Elliot is coming later this year! Make sure to sign up for my mailing list to find out when!
This week’s Friday Fantasy focuses on one of my most favorite influences: Brian Froud, who was behind the design of my favorite movie growing up, Labyrinth. Except I was always annoyed that the one appearance of fairies in that movie was so short! And Hoggle was fumigating them! If you’ve seen Labyrinth, did you ever notice that Jareth mistakenly calls Hoggle Hogwart at one point? This was way before Harry Potter came out.
His were the first illustrations that really inspired me to start drawing fairies, too. I loved how real and earthy the fae in his drawings seemed. The first book I got of his was his paperback “Faeries” way back in the 1990s. I loved that book forever, until it finally gave out and pages started falling out of it. Then I got the 25th anniversary edition, but I still kept the old, tattered one. I still look through it often, and every time I do notice new, glorious details mixed in with the familiar ones.
This month I’ve been reviewing chapters of my upcoming Call of Sunteri audiobook, and there’s a scene during Penny‘s narration where I couldn’t help but think of this Froud illustration:
Azi is trapped in the dreaming in the darkness, and she stumbles on a mysterious group of drained, fallen fae who are desperate for her help.
Hearing this narrated with all the different voices gave me such a thrill! I can’t wait for you to listen to the audio book, which is coming this spring! In the meantime, you can read Call of Sunteri here, and listen to the Call of Kythshire audiobook here!