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!
Featuring hand-selected, full color, high-resolution illustrations…
I’m beyond excited to offer this collection of illustrations to my readers, which is the first time they have ever been printed in FULL COLOR, the way I intended them! Whether you enjoyed my series via paperback or Kindle, these are scenes from the books like you have never seen them before.
The lulu site has a great reputation for excellent customer service, but their calendar preview requires flash, which I know is a problem for IOS users. Don’t worry! I have created a gallery on my website that allows everyone to browse through all of the enchanting images featured in the calendar. Click here to view the preview on my website.
Discover the rich world of Author/Illustrator Missy Sheldrake’s Keepers of the Wellsprings series. This stunning spiral-bound wall calendar will capture your imagination and whisk you into the epic story readers are calling “a high-fantasy Harry Potter.”
Best of all, it’s on sale now at a special introductory price of 30% off list: just $17.49! (plus shipping and tax where required)
Introducing young Mya! I’ve been hard at work writing her story, and let me tell you, she is not at all what I expected she’d be at 13 (going on 14) years old. This future leader of His Majesty’s Elite is quite a handful!
I’m still in the early stages of my draft, so I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to estimate a release date for a while. I promise it’s going to be amazing, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
If you’d like some sneak peeks and more regular updates, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Come on over and see what I’ve been up to. See you soon!
Local Missy Sightings
Before I say goodbye for now, I have one last bit of exciting news. I’ll be setting up a booth at the 2018 Clifton Day Festival here in Northern Virginia on October 7. I plan on signing books and calendars, and offering lots of paintings from my studio! I might even have a fairy or two there with me. If you’re local to the area and plan to attend Clifton Day, I’d love it if you stopped by and said hello.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end! Fairy wishes for great adventures until I see you again. ❤
(This message was originally sent to my mailing list on September 16. If you’d like to sign up for email updates, click here. Thanks!)
Today only, November 29, 2017, in celebration of the completion of the series, I’m offering books 1-4 for free!
Click the pic to visit the series page on Amazon
When I wrote this series, my hope was to capture a world that would enchant my readers and bring them to a place they’ve never been before. To me, the joy of reading is the escape of it. Growing up, I had few friends. I imagined them in the forests where I wandered, as fairies, and I imagined them in the pages of books.
In the Keepers of the Wellsprings, my hope was to create friends that would capture my readers’ hearts, just as those in the books I’ve read have done for me. Finishing the series has been bittersweet. I’m relieved to have been able to tie up to so many strands of the story so neatly, but it’s sad to say goodbye to these characters who seem so real now.
Rest assured, though, I don’t think I’m finished with these folks just yet. I intend to take a break, but there are so many stories to write, yet, from the world of the Wellsprings.
Special thanks to my friends who have agreed to participate in my blog tour! Please swing by and check out these fabulous authors:
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.
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—”
“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.
The epic conclusion to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series is almost here, and you know what that means: It’s time for a cover reveal!
If you’re familiar with the series so far, you know that I have illustrated designed all of the covers myself. It has always been important to me to make sure each cover is unique enough to be attractive on its own, but consistent enough with the rest of the series that it looks like a series when all of the books are displayed together.
To do this, I really thought about color, giving each book its own unique palette and tone. I knew Kythshire, for example, would be blue and gold, because those colors appear prominently in the book. They’re the colors of Azi’s guild, and the colors of the golden field she visits in Kythshire.
For Call of Sunteri, I chose red for the dye fields Tib escaped, and gold for the wings of a prominent fairy in the book. I won’t say who, just in case you haven’t read it yet!
For Call of Brindelier, it had to be purple for the mystery and majesty of the hidden kingdom of Brindelier, and gold, of course. This time, for Azi.
For Call of Hywilkin, I knew I wanted flame orange and yellow to represent the fiery mountain of Kerevorna, and the wings of its Keeper had to be very distinct. I also wanted it to feel quite ominous because of the dark, dramatic tone of this book.
Finally, here we are at Elespen! As the final book in the series, I hoped to make this cover really stand out. This book and its cover had to feel like a triumph. I wanted it to feel mysterious and creepy, but also bright and hopeful. I painted the wings to seem like they could be a butterfly in a rain forest jungle, and gave them eyes to make them curious and interesting. It was important that the green felt like a jungle, with all of the wonder and danger that the idea of a jungle invokes. I wanted it to feel ambiguously good and evil, beautiful, and unnerving. My favorite part about this cover is how the area beneath the wings feels like a portal into a strange blue sky or tropical water, which happened accidentally as I was painting it.
Without further delay, here it is, the cover reveal of Call of Elespen!
I’m still planning on releasing the book in the later part of November. I promise to keep you updated! In the meantime, you can download Call of Kythshire for free today, in celebration of my cover release! Enjoy!