Get ready for a weekend FULL of savings and exclusive deals! The paperback of THE RIGHTFUL BEARER, book 3 of The Maiden Ship trilogy will be 50% off from Nov 25-28th and will include an… More
What’s been going on with me at Whimsical:
Lots of projects are in the works. I’m still plucking away at Toff’s TMS spin-off, Charting Stars 2, and the Sleeping Beauty retelling I’m co-authoring with my lovely friend Bryn Shutt. I love writing, but at the same time, sometimes I wish I could just snap my fingers and have a complete storyin your hand now! Just know there are a lot of fun things in progess.
I’m still dealing with a relapse of my arm injury, so illustrating isn’t happening as much as I’d like right now. I do have some commissions from a while back that I’m able to share now so be on the lookout for those on social media. And attached here is a little sneaky peek, one you won’t see on social media, it’s a detail of a work-in-progress fan art that I was painting of Harper and Rhen from Brigid Kemmerer’s ACSDAL before my arm relapsed. I look forward to finishing it once I’m finally better!
Just a few more days until the release of WE COULD BE VILLAINS! I’m so excited for this book to be out in the world. It’s such a fun adventure. In addition to that, we’re also hard at work behind the scenes with Hayley Reese Chow’s Sci-fi action romance that I’m just bursting to share more details about soon!
We Could Be Villains by Megan McCullough in ONE WEEK! Are you as excited as I am?! To celebrate, the Kindle version is on sale for only 99 cents on Amazon! But hurry, this deal is only valid until the book releases on October 3rd.
And don’t forget you can still pre-order a paperback copy from my website, which is the only way to get the pre-order goodies, including a signed bookplate designed by Megan herself!
To celebrate the launch of Megan’s WCBV, @literaryfaery will be hosting a read-a-long on Instagram beginning on October 7th. Be sure to watch her Instagram for details coming very soon. There will be weekly check-ins and there might even be prizes involved. 😉
I will be going LIVE with Megan Mccullough on Instagram on October 1, 2022 at 5pm PST. We’ll be chatting about writing, publishing, and all things
We Could be Villains!
I hope you’ll join us!
Discontinuing merch is still on sale!
As a reminder, I’m no longer going to be stocking headbands, totes, or mugs in the shop, so whatever’s still there is all there is! If you’ve been eying something, you better hurry over and grab it now!
Stock of these items is ALMOST GONE. At the time of this newsletter, there are only (3) Maiden Ship Compass tote bags, (3) Scarlett headbands, (5) Maiden Ship compass headbands, and (2) Charting Stars mugs!
Charting Stars Rebrand will be delayed
This is the “little sad” part. We’re still planning to re-launch Charting Stars with an exciting new cover, but plans have been slightly altered and it’s a better fit to re-release it later. We will keep the Street Team sign-ups open, however, so if it’s something you are interested in, please complete this Google Forms questionnaire. All street team members will receive a Kindle edition of the book for free!
On a daily basis, I receive messages about shipping costs, and it’s always been disheartening to know there are those who would buy from the shop if shipping costs were more affordable. Living in such a rural area of Canada, my shipping options are severely limited and I offer everything I can, but the costs to send my products to the US and international customers are extremely expensive. Until now, there hasn’t been anything within my control that I could do about shipping.
I am now able to offer significantly reduced shipping costs (with tracking!) for all international customers, US included!
Not long ago, I introduced you to my assistant Christina. I’m delighted to announce that she will be my distributor for ALL international orders!
What does this mean? It means your orders will get to you faster AND will be much more affordable! If you have questions, please check the FAQs below, and if your question isn’t answered, please reply to this email! I hope you’re all as excited by this as we are!
Pricing will still vary depending on what products you order and where they will be shipped, but I can guarantee shipping is now significantly less expensive for any customer outside Canada!
Remember that even though we have new shipping rates for international and US customers, ALL shipping costs are displayed in CAD, not USD, but because the CAD is much lower than US and euro, you will see savings when the exchange is process via Paypal.
Does this include tracking?
Yes! All international (including US) orders will include tracking now. The only untracked shipping option will be for orders within Canada.
US has media mail shipping – what’s that?
Media mail is a specialty shipping rate exclusively for things like books, DVDs, newsprint, etc. It is drastically discounted from regular mail costs, but it can ONLY be used for books! If you’re ordering other items in addition to the books, it’s more cost-effective for you to order the book(s) with media mail and order the other items using first-class shipping. You’re also welcome to order everything together – just select Priority Mail at checkout.
What about the pretty tissue paper and other personal touches?
Not to worry! Even though I now have a distributor, it’s not a warehouse. Christina will be packing all US & international orders with care. Books will still be wrapped, signed bookplates will still be included, and all the extras you’ve come to expect from my shop.
We Could Be Villains releases in only ONE MONTH!!! You have four weeks left to preorder and grab all the FREE goodies! BUT FIRST, read on for a taste of this fabulous book, and then you’ll know how much you don’t want to miss it!
OFFICIAL VIGIL REPORT
FILED BY AGENT ROSEMARY COLLINS
DATES: JAN 15 – MAY 21
ALL RELEVANT DOCUMENTS INCLUDED
CASE #: [REDACTED]
JAN 15 – around 3:00 P.M. EST
Today’s mission: make it through my shift without SuperCon spoilers. It was only rumored to be the most explosive VIGIL & ANTE Studios panel in history. I would have ditched work to watch the livestream, but the thought of calling out sent my stomach into knots.
Yay for being responsible, Rosemary.
Ugh, the next two hours would be an eternity.
A sharp breeze cut through my coat, and I pulled the thick fabric tighter against me as I walked quicker through the crowded New York City sidewalk. I glanced at the time on my phone. An hour until the panel and only a few minutes until my shift.
What could the huge announcement be? A third Project Safeguard movie? Every actor was rumored to be at the panel, so an epic new superhero team-up film made sense. The creator of BestVIGILMemes theorized a Degree Surge solo movie was next because he found a leaked set photo.
The suspense was killing me. I shook my head. No, I wasn’t going to think about this until after work because it would make my shift feel even longer.
I put in an earbud and played my favorite showtunes. That would distract me for a while. “King of New York” blasted through my ears with its upbeat tune, and soon the loud rumble of the New York City machine disappeared. My steps matched the beat as that special Broadway joy surged through me, but I stopped short of singing along. I reserved my “performances” for my bedroom because the thought of an audience made me nauseous.
Something tickled the back of my neck. A snowflake? No, the sky was too clear. The chill crept farther and farther down my spine, almost like…like someone was watching me.
It had to be my imagination. Who was I kidding? It was nothing.
This is how people get kidnapped, Rosemary.
Why did this keep happening? It wasn’t the first time this week I’d felt someone watching me. I shivered again and paused the music. Blaring horns and echoing sirens flooded my ears. The inside of my thick winter coat became hot and damp with sweat, and my gut squeezed, screaming at me that someone was on my tail. And as a seventeen-year-old girl walking alone, that was a dangerous thing.
I couldn’t panic.
The smell of burnt pretzels mixed with exhaust wafted around me. Maybe I didn’t have a stalker. Maybe my brain was playing tricks on me. Maybe I was anxious about the SuperCon announcement and the ensuing adorable cast interactions. Not to mention the cute meet and greet photos. And everything I was missing out on.
I glanced behind me, but there was only a sea of people moving in unison. No one so much as looked my way. Still, I gripped my phone tighter, just in case.
No one is stalking you.
The sooner I got to work, the better.
Wait a second.
I had an idea. I quickened my pace and dodged oblivious bystanders, not willing to risk the pedestrian equivalent of road rage. I glanced back. One person matched my speed—some guy with electric blue hair. Not very covert, though my own copper waves had a similar effect. He was maybe…hmm…six feet tall with a jawline of steel only super attractive movie villains could pull off. (On principle, I refused to deem them hot.)
Someone was following me. I should call the police, but that would mean looking down at my phone, and it was already crowded enough—
My shoulder struck against something.
“Watch where you’re going!” a gravelly voice called after me.
I sprang forward, moving even faster. “So sorry!” I stole another glance over my shoulder.
Blue Hair sped up his pace but made no eye contact. Hopefully he didn’t realize I was on to him. My heart pounded.
He was closing the gap. I needed a plan.
People in spy movies always made shaking a tail look easy.
I took in my familiar surroundings. Starbucks. The vibrant blue VIGIL & ANTE Studios billboard that always triggered my fangirl. Abandoned, graffitied building. Shady tourist trap. My knuckles tightened around my lifeline so there was no way I could drop it.
If I could just make it to work.
I jogged, then took another peek over my shoulder.
He was closer.
Our eyes locked. His were brown, all but a small sliver of ice blue peeking through the left one. Something about him struck me as familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I turned and ran harder, but the image planted itself in my head.
Okay, maybe this was just a random guy. Maybe he wasn’t following me. But something about when our eyes locked… He wanted me.
I stole another glance.
The man was gone.
I didn’t stop to see where he went. My lungs burned as I finally slowed down a block away from my job.
Had that just happened? It was like something out of a movie, only more terrifying. The feeling that something horrible is gaining on you, clawing toward the hem of your shirt. I shivered. Deep breath. I brushed a stray hair out of my eyes and walked the rest of the way to the building. My body still shook.
I nudged open the front door, a bell overhead jingling. Ah, yes, good old Ketch-A-Burger. Did I work here for the sole purpose of saving toward a SuperCon ticket? Yes. It certainly wasn’t for the mediocre burgers the entire city was obsessed with.
I pushed through the line to get to the backroom. The door was barely open when the fandom-fueled screaming began. “Rosemary!”
I jumped back, heart hammering my ribcage. Oh no, Sam was not going to give me spoilers, even though the panel hadn’t started yet. “H-hi, Sam.”
“What do you think the big reveal is?” My co-worker grinned, peeling off his Ketch-A-Burger hat. “It’d better be another Illuman movie, because I cannot get enough of his light powers. Glowing skin and large amounts of sass? Yes, please!” Obviously I was a huge fan too, but Sam was the kind of fan who never shut up about it, even to let someone answer his own question. And when he had a theory, he always had to be right.
“Umm…” I blinked, mind still wrapping itself around whatever the heck he said. “Yeah, I don’t know. I—I think it might be another Project Safeguard movie.”
Sam jumped to his feet, putting him at least a foot shorter than me. “I mean, you’re excited, right? You have to be excited. Everyone is. Even all the fake fans. This is going to be the biggest news since they figured out how to fake Illuman’s powers in real life! Like…how can you top that kind of PR stunt? Especially because he is, without question, the best superhero.”
I forced a chuckle. “I don’t know about that. They’re all pretty cool. I especially love Agent Liam. And Ver.”
“But they aren’t real superheroes.” He shook his head, long brown 2000s bangs falling into his eyes. “To be a superhero you need powers. Look it up and you’ll see I’m right.” Oh, why did I tell him I was a fangirl?
“I don’t think that’s true.” I shook my head and looked toward the punch-in machine. If I got fired for not clocking in on time, Mom would never let me hear the end of it. “I have to clock in though, so…”
“Anyway, I’m prepared with AirPods so I can listen while I flip burgers. No one will notice. Do you think anyone will notice? No, no one will. I’m good at hiding it.”
I sighed. “Sorry, normally I’d talk but I need to clock—”
“But the AirPods? The boss won’t be able to tell, right?”
“I really don’t know.” If I told him no, he’d argue, and if I told him yes, he’d blame me if he got in trouble. “Just please don’t spoil it for me. I’m waiting to watch it until I get home.”
Sam grinned, then bowed and faked a British accent. “You have my word, my lady.” Project Safeguard reference. “Did you get it? It was a reference to—”
“Yes, Sam, I got it. Remember, no spoilers.” I took off my coat and put it with my purse, hands still shaking. Settle down. No one is going to hurt you. I clocked in, then went to go open the door into the kitchen as it swung inside.
Cue another adrenaline rush.
“Oh! Sorry.” Another one of my co-workers. “We need you on the other register. We’re packed right now.”
I nodded. “Sure thing.” I took a deep breath, then walked through the door. Chatter and laughter roared inside. We sure sounded busy. I turned and went up to the empty register, trying not to make eye contact with impatient customers until I logged on to the computer.
“Welcome to Ketch-A-Burger. What can I get for you today?” I looked up at the first person.
“A double cheeseburger and a large fry. Uh, lots of ketchup and no mustard.” The woman looked bored to death staring at the menu screens above my head.
Next person. “Twelve-count chicken nuggets.” And the next. And the next. And the next. My gaze flitted to the time in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. Four p.m.
The panel had begun, and half the world eagerly watched. There was a reason almost every VIGIL & ANTE Studios movie broke box office records.
Please no one spoil it. I glanced through the crowd, hoping I didn’t hear whispered reactions. Hoping Sam didn’t inevitably scream the news from the kitchen.
“Next.” I glanced up as a blond-haired man stepped forward and—
The same heart-stopping brown as Blue Hair. Identical silvery blue in his left iris. That was an uncommon thing…right? It didn’t make sense. Maybe my brain was playing tricks on me. Though both “stalkers” seemed about my age, this person had a much rounder chin. It was possible to bleach out that highlighter blue to the sand-colored surfer hair this guy had going on, but no one could magically change face shape, right? Certainly not within the last hour.
But what were the chances that two different people had the exact same eyes?
Chills crawled down my spine.
“…please.” He tilted his head.
I blinked, shocked back into action. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“A triple cheeseburger, please.”
Why was I still freaking out? He couldn’t be the stalker because he looked nothing like the guy following me earlier.
Also, why would a stalker be so polite? Wait, no, that was dumb.
“Uh, could you repeat that just one more time?” I forced a smile to hide the spontaneous combustion going on in my head. Forgetting someone’s order the moment after they said it is my social anxiety’s worst nightmare. Yes, it happens to me way too often, but who’s counting?
The man only smiled as if my mistake was no big deal, which earned another check mark in the “too nice for a stalker” column.
“Triple cheeseburger,” he said.
Okay, I got it that time. I pressed buttons on the screen without looking down. “Will that be all?”
Deep breath. “All right, your total is $5.49.”
He grimaced, reaching into his pockets. “Right. One moment.” His hands emerged clutching two wads of cash. I gulped, keeping my head down as if he held something contraband. Because it was too much money.
When I dared look up, his piercing eyes were still on me instead of the bills in his hand.
“I-I’m sorry, can I help you?” I gripped the register as the world went fuzzy.
This was getting beyond weird. My instincts screamed for me to run. Still, my mind fought back. This was a public place. Three more customers lined up behind him, and almost every booth was filled, so nothing could happen to me here.
I gulped. “Then do I know you or something?”
His chin dropped as a smile played at his lips. “Not this face.”
My breath caught. “What?” He knew. He knew about the man following me. Maybe he was the man following me.
Only now he shook his head. “No, you don’t know me.” Maybe I’d imagined his first statement. It was impossible anyway. No one could alter their appearance so drastically in that short amount of time.
“Right, umm…” I looked down at the screen again as if lost at which button to tap next. “Your cheeseburger is $5.49.” My chest tightened, but I forced myself to breathe.
He thrust a few crisp bills toward me and shoved the rest into his pocket. “Here you go.” The bills felt like they’d come straight from a bank. My fingers fumbled as I slipped the cash into the register and handed him change and a receipt.
“Thanks.” Then he stepped to the side, clutching the receipt. And his eyes. He still stared at me. Not this face. What did that even mean? I shifted positions and dug fingernails into my palm as if the pain would distract me.
Someone else moved forward.
“W-welcome to Ketch-A-Burger. How can I help you?” I managed to ask, but I didn’t tear my gaze from the brown-eyed man.
He stared at me as he waited for his food. But when his meal was ready, he left as though nothing had happened. His sudden departure was as strange as any of it.
I shivered. Everything about this felt wrong. Would he be waiting outside when I got off work? Maybe I should call my mom and see if she’d give me a ride home. If not, I’d ask a co-worker. I was not getting murdered tonight. At least not before I watched that panel.
JAN 15 – around 5:00 P.M. EST
Everywhere I looked, I searched for those haunting brown and blue eyes. If this was real, he could be anyone. A man leaned against a building talking into his phone. My heart skipped a beat. What color were his eyes? It was getting too dark to tell.
I stepped closer to Sam, hoping he didn’t think it was weird.
“I get safety and stuff, but you need to chill,” Sam laughed, shaking his head. “Like…you’re paranoid.”
“Probably,” I said, shrinking back. “Girls have to worry about this stuff, though.” But maybe he was right. Maybe I was overthinking this. One person couldn’t change faces in under an hour. It was a mistake. A fluke.
Still, the guy basically confirmed it. What he said couldn’t have been an accident, unless I’d imagined it.
Sam rolled his eyes, readjusting his backpack. “Okay, fine, what does this mysterious stalker look like?”
Yeah, this was the part I couldn’t explain very well. I glanced at the crowded walkway behind us as the constant city chatter seemed to grow louder. “His eyes stand out the most. They’re brown except for a sliver of blue in his left eye.”
“So…Ironfall?” Sam raised the one eyebrow I could see behind his bangs.
My stomach lurched. “What?”
“You just described Ironfall’s eyes. You know, the supervillain in Project Safeguard? The character literally everyone is in love with?”
“I know who he is, Sam,” I said. “I just…didn’t realize that.” In the movie, Ironfall could change his appearance. So could my stalker, apparently. And they either had the exact same eyes, or the stalker chose to wear the same contacts both times. Unless multiple people were pulling an elaborate prank.
“Your guy must be a cosplayer,” Sam said. “Which is common today because of SuperCon.” That was an easy explanation, yet something still nagged at me. I was missing something. Sam straightened his shoulders. “That’s right, hire me, Criminal Minds.”
“Maybe,” I breathed, still searching for an answer. It seemed too subtle for a prank. “Anyway, thanks for walking me home.”
He smirked. “Anything to get my shift covered. Also, please watch the panel because I can’t promise any more spoiler-free conversations. There’s too much to discuss. I’m storming the VIGIL & ANTE Studios because—”
“Don’t spoil it!” I sighed, then turned toward my apartment building. The sooner I was safe in there watching the comic con panel, the better.
“Then go watch it.” He shook his head, motioning toward the door.
I nodded, then went inside, half-running up the three flights of stairs. The lock clicked behind me as I shut our apartment door, and I double and triple checked it in case my multi-faced stalker decided to pay a visit. Safe at last. Now I could finally watch the SuperCon panel. The TV blared from the corner, keeping Mom’s attention like always.
I don’t think watching all those design shows helped her décor taste improve.
“Looks like you got home okay.” I jolted forward at my mom’s voice. She stood in the kitchen chopping an onion. “I said you didn’t need me to pick you up.”
I nodded, glancing at the lock again. “I convinced Sam to walk me home.”
She raised an eyebrow as her lips tipped upward. “Sam?”
My eyes widened. “Oh, no. He’s just a co-worker. An annoying one.” Why do parents immediately think you’re in love when you casually mention a boy? We’d never even texted each other beyond work stuff.
“Right.” She still had an amused look on her face, which meant she was convinced I liked Sam. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Just don’t let him distract you from work. You need to keep this job.” She brushed an auburn strand of hair from her face.
“I know, Mom,” I said. “It’s not like I’ve gotten fired before. And he only walked me home because I agreed to take over his shift.”
“Still, don’t let the wrong people distract you from where you need to go. You have to be ready, and at this rate”—she looked me up and down—“you’re not going to be.”
I pressed my lips together as my stomach twisted.
She turned toward the sink, rolled up her sleeves, and rinsed off her knife. “You know I’m only hard on you because I love you.” Yes, I knew she did, though sometimes her way of showing it cut deep.
“I know.” I pressed my lips together, then escaped to my room, which wasn’t much of a room anyway. It gave Harry Potter’s closet a run for its money.
SuperCon, here I come.
I tossed my backpack on the floor and plopped onto my bed. What was the big announcement? Thoughts of Mom and the day melted away as I sank into the arms of my fandom. I glanced over at my Project Safeguard poster, grinning. Each superhero stood in a fighting stance toward the bottom of the poster. Their different colored costumes stood out against the dark New York City skyline. The large villainous figure at the top hid in the darkness, but the smirk on his sharp-featured face stood out first.
And then I saw his eyes.
Sam was right. They were the same. As I studied them closer, I saw more similarities than something a pair of contacts could imitate. The depth of those rich brown irises as they stared into your soul. The way you could look into their eyes and see the final piece of a mental puzzle slip into place.
They had the same powers. The same eyes. The same everything.
It was almost like my stalker was Ironfall.
SOME NAMES AND LOCATIONS REDACTED FOR SECURITY
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED ON MAY 20
LOCATION OF INTERVIEW: [REDACTED]
CASE #: [REDACTED]
AGENT: Would you like anything to drink? Water? Coffee? Lemonade?
[NAME REDACTED]: No, thank you, I’m good.
AGENT: All right then, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Do you understand?
[NAME REDACTED]: Yes, but I won’t get a court date like most people, now will I?
AGENT: You must want to get this over with then.
[NAME REDACTED]: [inaudible]
AGENT: Did you sleep well last night?
[NAME REDACTED]: No.
AGENT: They say only the guilty sleep in jail.
[NAME REDACTED]: [chuckles] Well, you already know I’m guilty. Now you’re here to pry the whole story from me to see if you can figure out whose side I’m really on. You sure you’re not the one who needs that coffee?
(Read on for details about our 50% closeout merch sale!)
What’s been going on at Whimsical with Micheline Ryckman? Well…
I’m still working on the Maiden Ship spinoff featuring Old Toff when he wasn’t so old! Also announced this month – I have a super secret project I’ve been working on with fellow author and friend Bryn Shutt! There’s not much I can share just yet, but I can tell you it’s a Sleeping Beauty retelling and we’ve teased some art of two characters on Instagram so far. Go check them out here and here.
I haven’t been able to do a lot of illustrating lately but that’s just par for the course when you live with chronic illness. Some days/weeks/months are better than others. I’m hopeful my arms will begin to feel better soon and I can get back to creating lots of fun character art for you all!
We’re hard at work editing the upcoming book from our third author, Hayley Reese Chow. Still no details that can be revealed yet, only if you love sci-fi, keep your eyes peeled for updates because this is a book you will not want to miss! We Could be Villains by Megan McCullough is releasing in a little over a month, so don’t delay if you plan to preorder! It will be here before we know it!
Have you joined our Facebook group?
Are you in the FB group yet? If you’re not, you’re missing out on some fun things! This past month, we gave away ten sets of seconds/oopsies postcards. There will definitely be more in the future, so hurry on over and join us! We’ll also offer exclusive first looks and sneak peeks there that won’t be seen anywhere else.
We Could Be Villains by Megan McCullough releases in just 5 short weeks!! I can’t believe how quickly time has flown since we announced this fun superhero story back in the spring, but suddenly it’s almost here. If you haven’t preordered yet, time is running out!
Currently, only Kindle (e-book) format is available from Amazon, but after release day (Oct 3rd) you’ll be able to buy it in hardcover and paperback wordlwide. If you order from our shop website, the only option is paperback, BUT only orders from the shop include all the fun bonus items seen below, including a signed bookplate designed by Megan! Remember the shop prices are shown in CAD, not USD, and be sure to use a rep code to save yourself a little bit more! A link to all the current reps can be found a little further down in this newsletter.
Anyone recognize these characters? This is my current Work In Progress, it’s a bit delayed because of my arm/health issues at the moment, but as soon as I am better again I’ll be finishing it!
Welcome, Fall Reps!
We just announced our 2022 Fall Rep team so go check out the new additions on Instagram and give them a warm whimsical welcome! Keep an eye out for their rep codes too!
Miscellaneous Merch Closeout!
There is a VERY limited stock left of the four products shown in the photos below. Since Whimsical Publishing is growing, we need to clear out this stock to make room for new, exciting products from our authors.
As an impromptu Labor Day weekend sale, these products are 50% OFF the lowest listed price. These will NOT be restocked once they’re gone, so if you’ve had your eye on something, get it quickly! Each item has less than 10 left in stock.
Hoping your Wednesday is full of goodness all!!!
This wasn’t a nightmare, and Dain wasn’t going to wake up.
Since Sable left for The Maiden a fortnight past, Dain had been having nightly terrors, dreams filled with dark songs and cold, twisted shadows. But this present horror was real, and his feet, along with those of most of the crew, were frozen to the decks of The Gilded Pearl.
Heart racing, eyes glued on the dark masses growing in the salmon skies, Dain wondered if he was equal to the task—not just facing what came at him now, but all of it, everything. He’d been determined to fight, to end the genocide of the adept, to break the magical curses and stop a looming war. Dain had wanted the life he’d dreamed of back. And he’d wanted his loved ones free as well. So he’d plunged in, headfirst, with no thought to his qualifications or capabilities. Now he felt like a self-promoted cabin-boy trying to play captain on his first day at sea. He was out of his depth. Who was he to find the rightful bearer? Who was he to challenge an emperor and his monstrous creations? Who was he? Maybe he’d been naive, maybe just plain stupid—he was leaning toward the latter.
He could hear the wing-beats now.
This mission, the one he’d convinced his friends and family to join, might not end in victory after all––
A small, pale hand clamped onto his forearm.
Falling forward in relief, Dain cursed the emperor and his minions for their cold, terror-inducing magic. It was the worst part of dealing with stalkers—being imbued with panic, or in this case, frozen with fear and doubt. Idris, the boy who’d just stabilized Dain’s emotions with a touch, tried to help steady him physically now, but the child was less than half his size so they stumbled together. It wasn’t until Casper appeared, grabbing the scruff of Dain’s tunic and dragging him upright, that he was able to find his feet again. Drawing a deep, ragged breath, Dain gave a quick pat to Idris’s shoulder before the boy ran to relieve the rest of the crew. The child had an unfathomable talent, a level of power Dain feared most days, but right now, he was far too grateful to be afraid.
Casper looked to the dark wings on the horizon, his brow pinching tight. “This was yer plan, mate—time to see it through.”
Dain shook out his limbs, trying to loosen the faint remnant of fear still clinging to his heart. Then he bolted for the helm, calling orders to the crew as he went.
The late pirate, Captain Foxwing, had sworn up and down that The Gilded Pearl was the fastest galleon on the high seas. The vessel was certainly built for speed with its light frame and economical size, and the test runs had proven it to be at least half as fast as it was pretty, but there was still no way of knowing whether it was quick enough for what pursued them now.
They just needed to get up enough speed to keep the oncoming beasts in constant motion. That was it. Then it’d all be worth the risk. Hopefully.
The recovering crew scrambled, some stumbling to their respective stations after being released from their own frozen terror by Idris, but they still had the sails, ropes, and rigging secured and ready for Dain’s wind in record time. Of all the talents Dain had discovered within himself, the wind was by far the strongest and most responsive. And now, as he reached for the element, it sprang to his call like a child waiting in the wings to play. Dain’s long blond hair tore from its leather thong, whipping around his face as a formidable gust billowed the sails. The ship had already been in motion, but now it leapt over the waves. He heard several sailors curse in surprise at the sudden thrust, but a few hooted in exhilaration.
All of the crew besides himself, Casper, and Idris were pirates who’d been temporarily assigned by the queen of Nords Cove. As a merchant sailor, Dain would never have thought he’d see the day when he’d be praising pirates, but this crew had proven themselves worthy, and fearless. They hadn’t even flinched when he’d concocted this plan; in fact, many of them had seemed eager for the chance to kill a demon. The pirates had no love for the long-reigning emperor of Dorthane and his unnatural creations.
An eerie, steel-on-stone screech pealed through the air behind them, but Dain didn’t turn to look. He only coaxed the wind in greater billows.
Faster—they needed to go faster.
This time, Dain turned.
Less than half a span from the stern, framed against the bright and cloudless skies, feathers glistened. But these massive onyx wings were the only beautiful things on the creatures following behind. Everything else was hideous. All three were humanoid in form but giant and twisted, malformed in disconcerting ways, with oily skin that shifted in deep violet hues. They didn’t wear robes like their regular stalker counterparts, but filthy loincloths instead, and the largest one, the one with multiple breasts, wore nothing at all. They had long tails and their heads were hairless, almost bulbous. Their pitch-black eyes, the size of saucers, bore into Dain’s soul. Despite Idris’s relieving touch, Dain shivered. Then fear was replaced by pity—these monstrosities had once been adept, just like himself, and to some degree he would feel bad for trying to hurt them today.
The Gilded Pearl had sailed well beyond Nords Cove to ensure that the pirate haven wasn’t discovered while Dain practiced his talents on the open seas. He’d worked hard to lure these creatures here, hoping they’d sense his magic and come. Until now, land-bound stalkers had been the adept’s primary concern, and though those demons were fierce foes, they were afraid of the sea. A single drop of saltwater burned them; a decent splash would kill them. But these new stalkers were unknown, untested, and Dain knew they’d never stand a chance of finding the rightful bearer or stopping this war if the skies were full of invincible monsters. Plus, he’d never be able to keep Sable safe—keep her from being ripped from his arms again. The emperor wouldn’t stop searching for her; she was far too valuable. In fact, Sable’s talent had grown so powerful that she could shift entire battalions from one location to another with a wave of her hands. This made her the ultimate weapon of war, a perfect guerrilla tactician, an invader’s dream. So, not only did Dain want Sable by his side, safe and sound, he also couldn’t let her power fall into the hands of the enemy ever again.
Casper cried out from the crow’s nest above. “The demons are gaining on us!”
Several pirates spewed curses toward the monsters, and one even pitched a dagger, but Dain didn’t get to see if the weapon flew far enough to hit its intended target as he turned to focus on the breeze, encouraging the wind to push harder. He had to make sure there was just the right amount of space between the ship and the beasts for his experiment to work. His mastery of the water element was limited, so if the creatures were too far, he might miss, but if they were too close, the seawater might land with no effect and they wouldn’t be able to outrun them.
More steely screams pierced the skies as the wind hurled toward the sails. The ship creaked loud under the pressure, and Dain saw sailors scramble to stabilize the rigging before he glanced backward once again. They had gained some space, but not much—it was now or never. Motioning to the pirate waiting on his right, Dain urged the woman to the helm before he ran for the portside rail. Stretching his hand toward the current below, he waved his fingers, beckoning. The water was often reluctant to his call, their relationship with each other still rough, but to Dain’s relief, the element responded with vigor today, balling into dozens of globular projectiles. Perhaps somehow the water knew what was at stake? Jord said the elements were entities, of sorts, and Dain could only guess at what they understood.
He spun, flinging his arm wide to direct the miniature water bombs toward the flying stalkers while he urged the wind to help the globes strike true. Then he prayed to Donnamide, the lord of the sea, that the ocean would have the same effect as it did on the land-bound stalkers, and that this whole plan would be worth the risk.
His prayer went unanswered, or at least the first half did.
The water splattered like raindrops against the beasts, dribbling down their oily skin to no effect. A chorus of sour, laugh-like taunts followed, filling the air as their heavy wings beat harder.
Casper reiterated Dain’s curse out loud before hollering, “Get us out of here!”
Pirates cinched the sails, trying to ramp up the ship’s speed.
Dain sent a destabilizing gust toward the monsters, but the creatures were strong, and they lunged against the flow, throwing their arms forward like they were swimming.
Dain only had one more trick up his sleeve, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Jord had taught him how to harness his talent in a more economical way, but magic still required physical endurance, and while Dain might not have tired as fast as before, his talents would drain him, eventually. If a storm had already been on the horizon, his next idea would have been far less work. But creating a tempest from scratch, on a clear, sunny morning, was another feat entirely.
The ship creaked again, and this time the mainmast bowed under the weight of the wind.
Dain had no choice. He called for the crew to batten the sails as he raised his arms to the skies. He didn’t need hand motions to direct his talent like Sable did, but after weeks of practice he’d found that the movements helped him to concentrate, to focus.
Small fingers clamped onto his leg.
Idris stood beside him, knuckles white on Dain’s thigh. The child was supposed to have hidden after he’d finished releasing the crew—why was he still here?
“Let me do it,” Idris said. His ancient fuchsia eyes were wide, making them a little eerie.
Another screech bellowed, closer than before.
Dain looked from the boy to the aft of the ship, his mind whirring as he remembered how Leara An, Idris’s sister, had taken control of his body and talents months ago on The Maiden. She’d done it to save them all, but the feeling had been wrong, invasive; it was something Dain had never wanted to experience again. However, the girl had wielded his magic with might. She’d been powerful, swift, calculated and precise, and Dain figured Idris could probably do the same. If Dain let him, the child might be able to call the storm in an instant.
The ship was slowing now, and one of the monsters managed to breach the swirling air, grappling for the railing at the stern, his long claws slicing across the decorative wood before the wind toppled him backward, thrusting him just out of reach again.
Casper called from above, urging Dain in a half-sarcastic, half-breathless cry to think of something fast before they all became harpy fodder. Some of the crew nodded in agreement while others muttered prayers to Orthane—maybe Dain had been too hasty in calling these pirates fearless? They were right, though. He would tire, the wind would die, and it wouldn’t be long before the beasts overtook the ship. No matter how skilled he or Casper were with a sword, or how notoriously vicious these pirates might be in a fight, it was unlikely they’d survive against these giants. Dain’s earlier terror-induced thoughts came roaring back into his head now. Who was he to stop a war?
The child pulled at his pant leg again, more urgently.
Dain’s jaw clenched.
Then, without looking down at the boy, he gave Idris his hand.
Small fingernails sliced into his palm, and the weight and primal drive of Idris’s power invaded Dain’s body. The child took over everything that should’ve been Dain’s own, bending it to his will, and the elements didn’t even resist the call.
It was only moments before the skies darkened, before the rain pelted and the thunder rolled. The tempest raged, tilting and throwing The Gilded Pearl so violently that most of the crew were tossed from their stations. The stalkers were vaulted by the storm into the skies above, but somehow Idris kept both himself and Dain rooted on the spot. The boy’s draw made Dain’s knees grow weak, but he tried to steel himself against the physical exertion. He needed to finish what he started, and find out whether or not these monsters had a chink in their unnatural armor.
An ivory-blue bolt ripped from the crimson clouds to raze the flesh of the nearest beast, the one who’d clawed the deck rail. The monster didn’t even flinch on impact; the bolt just glanced off his violet frame. Dain cursed as Idris tried again, and again, all to no avail. Despite the boy’s hold over his body, Dain started to crumple, and as the rain dripped off the end of his nose, he yelled above the storm.
“Enough, Idris! They are made, like you and the stalkers. We can’t kill them with magic.”
The ancient gaze in Idris’s eyes faded, replaced by the shock and fear of a child. Dain should’ve known this would happen. At the very least, the experiment had proven one thing—the monsters were invincible. Even if they all died here today, his friends and family would know what they were up against. He’d left a note for Sable. They’d been communicating via shifted messages since she left, and this morning he’d written out his plan in detail, leaving it for her to take tonight.
Dain reached out to shove the child toward the captain’s quarters. “You did good, Idris. It’s not your fault. Now get inside, find the trap door I showed you, and hide. Don’t come out, no matter what you hear.” At least Dain knew the boy would be safe. The stalkers couldn’t sense him, and Sable would come back for Idris the minute she got Dain’s note.
The child’s bottom lip quivered, and Dain had to shove him one more time before he stumbled away to obey. As soon as the cabin doors closed, Dain pulled his sword from his belt.
Casper was beside him moments later, rapier in hand. “Ye’ve a knack for getting us into trouble, mate.”
Dain heaved an exhausted sigh, the winds, rain, and thunder ebbing away. “And you have a knack for joining me, willingly.”
Casper’s handsome face broke into a wide grin. “What? Like I’d miss all the fun?” His gaze flitted to the sky where the stalkers had regrouped and were preparing to dive. “Let’s see how these beasts like the taste of steel, shall we?”
The crew had regrouped after being dispersed by the impromptu storm, and they now stood with swords, daggers, and axes brandished and ready. A few of the pirates looked concerned, but most appeared eager, almost like they’d been waiting for this the whole time.
Fearless after all.
The monsters above somersaulted into a nosedive, their piercing screams making Dain wish he could cover his ears. If he survived this, Sable was going to be furious with him for being so reckless. Sable—he didn’t want to leave her. Dain’s sword arm drooped. He’d been a fool to think he could pull this off. He should’ve been smarter; he should’ve had another contingency plan in place. Who was he to stop a war, who was he—
He took a deep breath. Mo had once said that no one can escape the consequences of their choices, not unless they spend their lives running. Dain tightened his grip on his sword again. He was tired of running.
The smell hit him first, the stalkers’ pungent scent reminding Dain of rotting fish.
He hated fish.
Clenching his jaw, loosening his knees, Dain readied himself to engage.
Hope you had fun reading, if you’re interested, The Rightful Bearer is available here in my shop and also on Amazon as well.
What’s been going on at Whimsical:
If you follow me on social media, you may have seen my teasers about my current work in progress – a spin-off story about Toff Parley from The Maiden Ship trilogy. This story will focus on all the wild adventures Toff had in his younger years!
With my backlog of commissions being finished, I’ve been able to make some progress on more fun pieces! I recently shared a piece from Curious Beginnings by Deanna Raybourn, a book recommended to me by my dear friend Caryn.
Whimsical Publishing has signed its third author! We are delighted to welcome Hayley Reese Chow to our family of indie authors! I can’t give many details about her book just yet, but I can tell you it’s SUCH a fun engaging read. It’s a story that I think will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and The Scorpio Races. Hayley’s Instagram is a great place to check out what she’s up to and what she has published before!
Join me in welcoming our newest author:
Hayley Reese Chow!
We are so, so, so excited to welcome Hayley into our Whimsical family. I’m absolutely bursting at the seams because I want to share more about her book, but all in good time! Until then, check out Hayley at the link below to learn more about her and give her a warm Whimsie welcome!
New Admin Assistant!
I’m delighted to introduce you to my new admin assistant, Christina! She helps keep my business organized and has been a tremendous help with a lot of behind-the-scenes work. You may get a reply from her if you email us, so I wanted to make sure you had a face to put with a name! The adorable dog next to her is an illustration I did of her furbaby, Goose.
Have you joined our Facebook group yet?
That’s right! We now have an exclusive Facebook group just for my Whimsies!
As a Facebook Whimsie, you’ll occasionally get exclusive early sneak peeks at works in progress, new art, or snippets from upcoming books.
We will occasionally host giveaways and offer exclusive discount codes for group members, so click HERE to join now!
Remember this WIP from last month?? Well, for those who guessed Percy and Annabeth from the Percy Jackson novels, you were right! I can’t sell this design, but for a limited time, it will be included as a FREE postcard with all orders $10 and over. There are a limited number available, so hurry hurry! SHOP HERE!
Also, if ya missed it on socials, there is new artwork up in the shop!
This Veronica Speedwell fanart and this Legend depiction from Caraval are now available!
Low Stock Alert!
Unplugged Book Box has a very limited supply left of the exclusive edition of A Daughter of the Trolls by McKenzie Catron. These won’t last long so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, hurry over and grab one HERE!
Charting Stars is getting a re-brand!
Charting Stars, book one of the Nine Realms Tales, is being re-released this autumn! We are looking for active, enthusiastic people to join our Street Team to help promote the book’s re-release and hype it up as much as possible! If you’re interested, please complete this Google Forms questionnaire.
If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect opportunity! All street team members will receive a Kindle edition of the book for free!
EXCLUSIVE EDITION GIVEAWAY!!!
In case you missed it, Unplugged Book Box is doing an exclusive edition of A Daughter of the Trolls in hardcover and now they’re hosting a giveaway for one!
They are pulling out all the stops with this edition. It’ll have:
- Gold foiling on the hardcover (with a design hand-picked by McKenzie!)
- Exclusive artwork on the reverse dust jacket (artwork by me, Micheline Ryckman)
- Absolutely stunning stencilled edges
- A digital signature
If you’d rather purchase the Unplugged Book Box edition of ADOTT, they have a very limited supply left. These won’t last long so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, hurry over and GRAB ONE HERE!
But not just any read-along – this one is ALSO a giveaway!
For the month of August, Alex at Fire Nation Creations will be hosting a read-along of A Daughter of the Trolls with weekly discussions. At the end of the month, you’ll be able to nominate and vote on suggestions for a candle to be made, inspired by the book. Any guesses on who will be doing the artwork for the candle label? You guessed it! Me, Micheline Ryckman!
Those who participate in the read-along discussions will be eligible to win a candle, so be sure to check it out!
For full details by clicking on the image above.
The kindle versions of the first two books in The Maiden Ship trilogy – The Maiden Ship and The Lion of the Sea – are currently on sale, but for a limited time! So hurry on over to Amazon (click or tap the graphic) and snag these kindle books before they go back to regular price!
Rep Search ends July 31st!
Our rep search on Instagram will close in a little over a week, so if you’ve been meaning to enter and haven’t yet, be sure you don’t miss the deadline! Click graphic for more details.
From the desk of Micheline Ryckman
(Pssst! There’s a special offer just for newsletter/blog subscribers
at the end of this email!)
What’s been going on at Whimsical:
I’m currently working on a spin-off of The Maiden Ship, featuring one of its beloved characters in his younger years. Any guesses who this new story will be about?
I’ve been hard at work the past several months completing commissions and they are (almost) finally finished! Because of that, I’ve had little new art to share publicly but that will be changing soon! I’ve had quite a few fan arts and personal projects planned and I’m excited to make some progress on those! Commissions will be closed for a bit but I’m very excited for you to see what I have in the works.
In case you missed the recent news, one of Whimsical Publishing’s books is being featured in Unplugged Book Box’s August YA Crate! The book will have a limited edition hardcover binding, gold embossing on the hardback, an exclusive just jacket with reverse artwork (artist TBA), exclusive professional STENCILED edges, and a digital signature! Check out the graphic below to order your copy!
More publishing news – eARCs were sent out for We Could Be Villains! We are so grateful to all our ARC readers and if you weren’t selected this time, please don’t be discouraged. I’d send one to everybody if I could. If you’re interested in becoming an ARC reader, check out the link in the menu above.
We Could Be Villains is still open for pre-order. Remember the pre-order incentives (including a signed bookplate) are only included in orders from here on my website. This superhero novel is perfect for fans of pop culture and comics, as well as theatre kids and anyone who loves to hate the perfect villain.
CURRENT WORK IN PROGRESS:
Each one of the books in this series is dedicated to a member of my family.
The Maiden Ship dedication reads: ‘For Hannah, this ship was constructed when you were born, yet did not sail until you were grown.‘ I started writing TMS shortly after my first child, Hannah, was born, but it got set aside when the busyness of being a young Mom took over. It wasn’t until over twenty years later, when Hannah was grown, that I picked up the story again, and it was the best feeling to be able to share the journey with her. She was the one who actually encouraged me to pursue illustration, which in turn led to writing. I owe her so much for helping me find my way here. <3
The Lion of the Sea dedication reads: ‘For Hunter, despite the struggles you face everyday, you get up again the next and bravely keep on living.‘ Like myself, my son has severe chronic health struggles. We are a constant support and daily encouragement to each other, but I’d say, out of the both of us, he is the bravest, kindest, and best. He faces things I couldn’t, he is a hero.
The Rightful Bearer dedication reads: ‘For Shane. I love you always, and forever, no matter what.‘ When our kids were small we’d always say this phrase to them at bedtime as we tapped their chest, chin, and nose. It was a nightly routine that became a family tradition, and now the words means a lot to all four of us. My husband is my everything, he is solid, good, loyal, and supportive beyond compare. I would not be where I am today without him. He is my heart.
These books, though I wrote them, belong to my family, and I hope that The Maiden Ship series’ voyage never ends. I hope it sails on and on, from family to family, to family, and maybe even becomes a special part of their own personal stories too.
The WE COULD BE VILLAINS COVER IS HERE!!!
So excited to share this cover reveal with you all. Author, Megan Mccullough and myself, Micheline Ryckman, worked for months creating this one and getting it just perfect. We are so proud of how it turned out and we hope you love it too! (Finger crossed.)
We Could be Villains is now available for preorder HERE in our shop and it includes, for free, all the preorder incentive goodies you see pictured (three postcard art prints, two double-sided bookmarks, and a signed bookplate). This book is available for preorder as the kindle version on Amazon as well. (Please note: preorder goodies are not included with purchases through Amazon.)
Here’s my review of WCBV:
Is it really possible for an author to mix superheroes (and villains), secret agents, theatre, and big screen, movie magic all into one novel?
Well, yes, apparently it is!
Mccullough does all of the above and more in her sci-fi, debut novel, We Could be Villains. And I think young adult readers, no matter their preferred genre, are going to love this tale! (I did, and I almost exclusively read fantasy.)
This story is the perfect blend of seedling romance, high-stakes espionage, and magical superhero escapades. You will be on the edge of your seat, maybe even biting your nails sometimes, but for the most part, you’ll probably just be glued to the pages because of the heartthrob supervillain, Ironfall. Yes, he’s hot. Yes, you’ll sympathize with him. And yes, you’ll probably fall in love with him.
Anywho, all that to say, GO, READ, THIS, BOOK!
Avoid spoilers. Don’t get fired. Defeat a not-so-fictional supervillain?
Seventeen-year-old fangirl Rosemary Collins lives for VIGIL & ANTE Studios movies. From action-packed superhero fights to sweet character moments, she’s here for it all. But in a real-life crossover no one saw coming, the fandom’s heartthrob supervillain, Ironfall, isn’t as fictional as the film studio wants her to believe. Beyond the glamorous red carpet lies the government’s most guarded secret: the movies are real.
Armed with a devilish grin and a wit as sharp as his knives, Ironfall needs her help, and refusing means he’ll kill her parents. Her only other option involves spying on him for the government’s secret superhero division. Suspended between fact and what she thought was fiction, Rosemary must join her heroes and create an impenetrable web of lies—or guarantee her parents’ safety as she watches the world burn at its adored villain’s hand.
Perfect for fans of pop culture and comics, WE COULD BE VILLAINS packs an entire cinematic universe into a book. Join Rosemary and the not-so-fictional heroes (and villains!) of the VIGIL & ANTE films in this imaginative science fiction where superhero battles equal publicity stunts, fictional characters become family, and the villain just might steal your heart.