Category Archives: Excerpts

Fantasy Friday 2-12-2021

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Fantasy Friday 2-12-2021

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.


“Only you.”


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?

Find out! Get your copy today!

Writing Wednesday 2-3-2021

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Writing Wednesday 2-3-2021

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!

You can listen to Call of Kythshire here!

Sunday Sketch 1-24-2021

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Sunday Sketch 1-24-2021

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.

Amma sleeping…lost in the Dreaming.
Hana and Elliot

Elliot is coming later this year! Make sure to sign up for my mailing list to find out when!

Writing Wednesday 1-13-2021

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Writing Wednesday 1-13-2021

Recently, while my brilliant narrator Penny was working on the audiobook for Call of Kythshire, I read through the entire kindle version of the Keepers of the Wellsprings again just to refresh my memory. While I was reading, I discovered something interesting. Kindle has a function that allows readers to see which passages have been highlighted by others! How cool!

I thought it might be fun to take a look at what people have highlighted and put in my two cents as to why, since as far as I know you can’t see others’ notes, just highlights. Here’s the first passage that was highlighted five times in Call of Kythshire:

“People should be allowed to feel their own true emotions. Forcing calmness on anyone for too long or to further your own agenda is an abuse of power.”

-Azi, Call of Kythshire

I absolutely love that this quote was highlighted so many times, because it’s basically the theme of the entire series. The fight for the Wellsprings is all about the battle for conservation, restraint, discipline, and empathy. While our virtuous heroes are diligent about practicing self-control, the villains of the story, the Sorcerers, are the exact opposite. They don’t care at all about how their destructive thirst for magic affects others. They’re too consumed by the arcane to even notice the cost.

It was so much fun while writing this series to play with this give and take of self-control versus utter abandon. Even in the very first scene of the book, Azi shows restraint by only defending herself from Dacva’s shocking and ruthless attack not by swinging to kill, but by choosing to strike him with the flat of her blade and crack his ribs instead. Mya, the guild’s leader, shows restraint by never using her magical voice to influence people, even though she could have the entire kingdom on their knees before her if she chose to. Rian struggles to keep himself under control when he enters the realm of the fairies, knowing he could easily harness the power of their Wellspring and destroy them if he let the magic entice him.

On the flip side we have Prince Eron, who rarely feels the need to keep himself under control, instead doing whatever he likes whenever he pleases, and Viala, who has lost herself to the drug-like lure of magic and become addicted to its power. In the big picture, there are the Sorcerers from Sunteri who have ruined their entire kingdom from their reckless abandon and thirst for more.

Lisabella’s notion that just because you have a power doesn’t mean you should use it, that people should have a choice to feel the way they feel and act of their own will, is a portent of things to come not just in Call of Kythshire, but throughout the entire Keepers of the Wellsprings series.

In real life, too. Sage advice, Lisabella. Thanks! ❤

Mya: His Majesty’s Elite

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Mya: His Majesty’s Elite

I’m so excited to announce that my latest book is coming out in less than a month! Mya is a minor character in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, but, like all of my characters, I knew her story went far deeper than I could venture within the tale of that series. Little did I know, she would bring me on a journey I never could have anticipated! Here’s a little taste of her story, and my upcoming book: Mya.

Her voice is her power.

As the daughter of a vagabond scoundrel, aspiring minstrel Mya has spent her childhood wary of her magical voice while traipsing through dangerous jungles in pursuit of her father’s dream—fortune and glory.

She never imagined Pa’s latest scheme would have her tangling with thieves, sailing across the world on a ship full of pirates, kissing a prince, meeting the foxy elf of her dreams (literally), and dodging the grasp of the most dangerous Sorcerer in Cerion, all the while wondering: Where is Pa?

A mysterious note promising he’ll meet her soon pushes Mya toward options she never considered before. She could go on living at the mercy of her father’s endless plots, or create the home she’s longed for in Cerion, and finally embrace the power of her own voice.

Coming October 12 to Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Nook, and book retailers everywhere.

This exciting prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series focuses on young Mya as she journeys to Cerion for the first time.

 

 

Mya will be available in paperback through Amazon, and special edition hardcover through Ingram.

I’m proud to share my Author’s Sketchbook with you in this very special hardcover edition of Mya: His Majesty’s Elite! Available exclusively in the hardcover edition, the Author’s Sketchbook includes over 20 original sketches I drew during my writing process. Sketching keeps my creativity flowing and helps me sort out characters and places in my mind. Here are a couple of example sketches included in this exciting edition:

 

In this epic fantasy adventure, you’ll be taken on a whirlwind journey across a world unlike any other. Are you ready to meet Mya, one of His Majesty’s Elite?

 

An excerpt from Mya: His Majesty’s Elite

Dear Pa,

Did you know you sent me to Cerion aboard a pirate ship? I’ve never seen greed like this, or danger. But I’m learning how to handle it.

At first, as usual, the men on board were afraid of me. They kept me confined to my cabin and didn’t allow me out. That was fine with me, because you instilled a fear of the sea into me that I still appreciate. But the tides changed about halfway through the voyage (that was an intentional pun—I know how you like them), and they came to see how valuable I could be aboard their ship. I took to singing to heal, Pa, and it worked well, and they kept me on that duty for a while.

But pirates are greedy. You know that as well as I do. Once their fear of me was gone, they tried to command me. The captain called me to the helm, ordering me to sing at their enemies and keep them in pain. He wanted me screaming like I did to save the ship from nearly being lost— I’ll tell you about that later. I talked him out of it, though. After the first attack, I had to coax him each time to let me go to my cabin in peace. But I still had to listen to it. I still heard talk later as the crew bragged and boasted of their victories.

Nine ships, Pa, and countless men brutalized by their swords and their Mage.

I won’t talk about it to you. Not right away. Maybe in time. I fear the anger in my voice would hurt you.

I’m not proud that I hid in my room through most of it. Every time it happened, I couldn’t help but think maybe I could have talked them out of attacking, just like I talked them into leaving me out of it. I could have convinced them to sail away and leave those innocents to their own journeys. I was afraid, though, that I’d fail to convince them, that they’d see through my efforts to control, that I’d end up being the one run through with a blade and cast into the sea. Cort said that was likely. That I had to think of myself and keep myself safe. That no amount of talking would change a lifetime of habits, not even with my ability.

If it wasn’t for him, for Cort, I think I might have lost my mind on this ship. You owe him a great debt, Pa. He kept my spirits up and watched over me, far more than Paewyn did.

Paewyn. She’s another story altogether. You’ve got to watch her if you want to keep her. Her eyes wander too far, she goes way too deep into her cups. She’s gotten better as we get closer to the journey’s end, but for most of the trip, she was totally unhinged.

I think partly she was jealous. The crew admires me, and I let them, mostly to keep myself safe until we see Cerion’s shores. Did you know pirates are excellent tailors? Cort says it’s because they loot so much fine fabric. That’s why they dress so bright and rich. They’ve made me such lovely dresses, Pa. I hope you’ll let me keep at least one. I’ve never owned anything so exquisite, that fit me so well. They’d suit me well for my performances in Cerion, I think.

That is your plan, isn’t it? For me to sing at the competitions? Paewyn has said so. Whenever she’s sober, she keeps me practicing my lute and writing as many songs as I can think to write. I can’t wait to play for you and show you how much I’ve learned.

Thankfully, the voyage is nearly over. I hope in all my life I will never step foot on a ship again. The fear of being cast off it is too much to bear. The vastness of the sea, just like you said, is dreadful.

That reminds me…I’d like to know how you made the voyage to Cerion. I can’t imagine with your fear of water that you’d manage the journey this way. Why did you decide we shouldn’t go together, and why did you send Paewyn with me instead? Did you pay for a Mages’ portal? That would make sense. I know they’re very expensive and even with all of our things sold, you wouldn’t have been able to pay for me, too.

That’s all I can think of these last few days. That, and how much I’m looking forward to seeing you. I know you had your reasons, and I did learn some things, Pa. I’m trying to be reasonable and be grateful, like Paewyn says I should be, but I’ve missed you so much and I really need to understand why you left me for so long. I’m not angry—well, maybe I am, but only a little. Truthfully, I can’t wait to have my feet on solid ground again, and to hug you. I’ve missed you since the Millers. Two months and more is a long time to be apart.

See you in Cerion.
Your Songbird,
Mya

 

Thankful!

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Thankful!

I’m so thankful for the excitement and support surrounding the release of Call of Elespen, I can’t contain myself! Last week, I snuck the first chapter to my faithful newsletter subscribers and the response was so much fun! If you weren’t in on the surprise, then you should definitely sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss out on my chapter two sneak-peek.

If you did miss out, don’t worry! I’m feeling so generous and thankful as I look forward to Thanksgiving tomorrow, I’m happy to share chapter one with the world! Here it is. Enjoy, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Call of Elespen: Excerpt

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Call of Elespen: Excerpt

 

Here’s a fun excerpt from Call of Elespen, book five of the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, to whet your appetite! I’m still putting some polish on this epic finale, but I can say with confidence that it will be available by the end of the month! November 29 is the tentative release date. I really can’t wait for you to read it!


After a long day of meetings, planning, and preparing for the Dawn’s next steps, I fall into my bed and bury my face in my pillow. The sweet, familiar lavender and rose fragrance of Mouli’s laundering soap soothes me to sleep almost instantly. I dream of pleasant, fleeting things as I burrow deep into my soft, downy bed.

“Azi,” tiny hands pat the side of my nose and Flitt’s light dances behind my eyelids as she raps on my brow. “Azi,” she whispers again, this time a little more insistently.
I groan and burrow deeper into my bed in protest, and she tugs at the unraveling strands of my braid.

“Azi, wake up!” she squeaks just above a whisper. “It’s urgent!”

My eyes fly open. I bolt upright in my bed. My heart races. Across the room, Mercy jumps in its stand. “What is it?” I gasp, flinging my warm, downy blanket off of me. “Is it the Dusk? Are they attacking?”

One bare foot touches the cold floor as my sword lands in my outstretched hand. I’m halfway to my armor stand before Flitt darts into my face.

“Shh, shh, shh!” she hisses, pressing her surprisingly non-sticky hands to my lips. “It isn’t anything like that! You’re out of sugar cubes again! It’s like Mouli’s forgotten all about me!”

I stare in disbelief at the bright fairy, blinking the sleep from my eyes. Mercy slides from my loosening grasp and floats to set itself in place on its stand. With a groan, I fall back into bed and pull the blankets up over my head.

“You said it was urgent,” I say thickly through a yawn.

“Well, it is. I’m hungry!” Her squeaky voice, muffled by the comforter, drifts closer. I feel her feet on the side of my head and pull the blankets tighter around myself. “I can’t help it if I’ve been up dancing all night while you were being lazy. A fairy has things to do, you know. Important things.”

“Sure, important things,” I yawn again.

“You don’t believe me,” Flitt huffs. I feel her land by my arm. There’s the sound of a scuffle and a tug on the blanket. She manages to get an edge pulled out of my grasp, and she peeks inside. Light bursts from her face, blinding me with sudden, twinkling rainbows. I screw my eyes shut in protest.

“Of course I believe you,” I say, poking my head out into the cold in surrender. “Could you tone it down a little, maybe?”

“Sorry,” she whispers, giggling, and dims her glow. “But you’re awake now! Hurrah!”

“Hurrah,” I mumble, scooting back to prop myself against my pillow. I glance to my shuttered window as I reach for the cup on my bedside table to take a sip of water. The light of the waning moon spills through the slats, competing with Flitt’s colors as it stretches across the floorboards.

I set the mug back on the table and open the drawer, revealing the stash of sugar cubes I’d grabbed earlier on the way back to my room.

“There,” I say, utterly annoyed.

“Yes!” Flitt squeaks. “You’re the best, Azi. Really.” She dives into the drawer and shoves several cubes into her belt pouch. To my surprise, as hungry as she claimed to be, she doesn’t eat any.

“Do you want to know who I was dancing with?” she asks, now that she’s sure I’m fully awake. She keeps her voice much quieter than usual and glances over her shoulder toward the circle hatch. The ribbons of her skirt rise and fall as she sighs dreamily, twirling in place. “Bet you can’t guess.”
My mood shifts. Maybe it’s because I was just dreaming, or maybe it’s because I’m overly anxious over the looming battle, but something about her here in my room, dancing and glowing in the moonlight, makes my heart swell with love for the little fae. My irritation over being woken up in the middle of the night is easily pushed aside by my affection for her.

Just a few short years ago, I never would have imagined a scene like this could be real. If I’d told someone there was a fairy in my bedroom, Uncle most definitely would have had my head examined.

“Hey, Dreamy,” Flitt whispers, diving toward my face. She stops short of my nose and taps it with her finger. “You’re supposed to guess!”

“Oh,” I say. “Um, Twig?”

She shushes me again, clinging to my cheek, and glances toward Rian’s room.

“Not Twig,” she whispers. “And can you keep your voice down?”

“Why?” I ask.

“You can’t answer a question with a question!” she whispers.

“I didn’t know we were play—”

“Shh!”

“For the ever-loving—” I start to growl, and Flitt squeaks and darts to my ear.

“I don’t want to wake up Stinky,” she whispers. “When was the last time we had a talk, just you and me, huh? If he comes in here, he’ll stick himself to your face all the way ‘til morning, and I just want to talk to you without him around because you’re mine and I’m yours and just this once I don’t want to share!”

Slowly, I turn my head to face her. She hovers in the air, even with my eyes, her fists clenched at her sides, her cheeks red, her eyes narrowed.

“Flitt,” I whisper, trying hard to keep the bemusement out of my voice, “are you jealous of Rian?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she huffs, crossing her arms. She purses her lips. Her nostrils flare out. This close, I can see the beautiful shift of color in her eyes: fuchsia, orange, violet.

“You are,” I say, biting my lip to keep myself from laughing.

“That’s not the point!” she squeaks, then claps her hands over her own mouth.


If you haven’t read the Keepers of the Wellsprings series yet, you should definitely get started before the final book comes out! You can grab your copy of all four books on Amazon.

I’ll be posting some more info and updates as release day nears, so make sure to check back often!