Open Journal: Disconnected

Recent-Past Me writes…

I met my best friend in the forums of NaNoWriMo. It’s a story we’ve rehashed a ton of times, to curious outsiders and among ourselves: Her foxy Thief Lord, my legendary outlaws and Song Caster of minstrel; a passing connection between states-away strangers that, somehow, went beyond passing to lasting these four years and counting.

A once-in-a-lifetime miracle.

At least, not a miracle I’ve seen repeated yet in my life, and don’t expect to during NaNo ‘14.

I haven’t spent much time in the forums, this past month. By which I mean, I’ve half-heartedly poked my head in once, lurked around for a short while, then wearily closed out the tab. I don’t have the energy for socializing chitchat. For dragging on a smile and feeling around for common ground. For friendly emoticons and exclamation points.

There are few things I want to deal with less, in this state, than exclamation points.

Besties For Good 02My best friend just got married, moving even further out of reach. I was her Maid of Honor; her personal assistant; the collected, efficient go-getter striding around with a rapidly marked-up notebook. My brain, it seems, works differently than the average human. (Gasps of faux surprise all ‘round.) The bride-to-be and her family, the wedding itself, needed me in cyborg mode. Cue three weeks of setting self aside that I might to best ability serve.

Greater love hath no one than this: To lay down her life for a friend.

My insides feel slain on the altar where she spoke her vows.

I pushed myself so far, strained so hard, strove so long, and I’m proud of me, but I’m injured.

It’s not the first time I’ve maimed myself like this. The summer I published “Swan Prince” then dove straight into my second season on cast at the Renaissance Faire blew me out in much the same way. Strained, sprained, drained.

My brain works differently than the average human.

Participant, mm? I hardly feel like one.

Participant, mm? I hardly feel like one.

I’m not made to deal so intensely with so many people for this length of time. I’m slowly recovering; better now than I was days ago, and likely better by the time this post goes live than I am during its drafting. But in the meantime, much as I’d love to get back into the international camaraderie of NaNo – one of my favorite parts of the event, in years past; what separates NaNo from just another month of me binging on word-making; the gateway, once, to a friendship like I’ve never had before – I just can’t with the socializing, right now.

So a world of Wrimos is over there, and I’m over here, with days to go ‘til THE Writing Month begins, feeling wholly disconnected from it all.

My tired = sad.

My sad = lonely.

My cyborg powers, experiencing technical difficulties.

“The girl needs a vacation,” Will Scarlet opines.

The girl doesn’t believe in vacation.

Edgwyn says kindly, “That’s why the girl’s a wreck.”

I’ll sleep when I’m dead. ‘Til then, I’ve got writing to do.

“Mercy on our souls,” Allyn murmurs.

Fallen on a Good Read

Just when I’d figured this novel would end up in one of my “Books To Read Eventually” posts… surprise! I finally got around to both reading and reviewing it! #LikeABoss

Fallen on Good Times

The Book: “Fallen on Good Times” by Rewan Tremethick.

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Blurb:

Fairy tales are warnings. Legend is history. Monsters are real.

Paranormal detective Laslo Kane learned the truth the hard way. He’s had enough of the supernatural trying to kill him, but his latest job offer could provide him with a way out. A desperate investor has come to him for help investigating the murder of his business partner, and the money he is offering could change Laslo’s life forever.

It quickly becomes apparent that the killing is just one of several and that they are all linked. Laslo must follow the trail, even though he knows exactly where it ends: the mob.

Can Laslo survive and claim his fee, or will earning a living be the death of him?

My Thoughts: I can personally vouch for this novel’s suitability as a read to pass the time during a long day of air travel. Pilgrim’s Wane is a far more interesting place than an airport – to the point that, for the first while, I wished to spend even more time among the city’s supernatural elements firsthand, rather than largely hearing about it via narrating protagonist Laslo Kane. Happily, the deeper Laslo gets into his investigation, the more exciting local color comes to light. Vampire thugs, spectral gangsters, the man who talks to ghosts…while, unbeknownst to him, being a ghost himself.

I love a mystery that keeps me continually surprised, and this novel accomplished just that. The jaded private eye found at the bottom of a scotch bottle is nothing new, but Tremethick spices up the cliché with a number of original touches and, try though I did to guess what was coming, the story stayed one step ahead of me all the way. Darned, too, if Laslo didn’t end up looking heart-soaringly heroic in the face of dark odds. That climax had me on the edge of my cramped little airplane seat!

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If this concept seems in any way up your dark, sinister, potentially mobster- and/or werewolf-ridden alley, give ‘er a go.

And wouldn’t you know, that prize pack including a free copy of “Fallen on Good Times” (and a paperback ARC of “The Sun’s Rival”, among other titles) is still out there for the winning! If you haven’t yet, now’s a fine time to enter the giveaway.

Rewan Tremethick Halloween Giveaway

The Valkyrie Has Landed (Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell)

“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”

Danielle whipped up a logo for me, because she is awesome first class.

The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.

“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”

As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “Cara Nolan, creation of author Roselyn Hendrickson, describes herself thus:

Undercover reporter and superhero with an unfortunate love of hot chocolate. Also living on the run, avoiding the super-human Registry and my past. Oh, and did I forget to mention I have a giant pair of wings on my back?

“Welcome, Cara!” Will greets the young lady now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – where in the worlds did you get those wings, and do they come in my size?”

Cara’s smile slides off her face. “Uh…” (Behind the curtain, Roselyn face-palms, muttering under her breath, “Of all the questions to start with, Scarlet!”) She clears her throat and shifts uncomfortably. “I, uh, actually, got my wings in an illegal experiment. Because the scientists in charge were trying to get back at my dad. And, uh, the data was all lost after the Registry shut the labs down, so, it’s just the one size. Sorry.”

Will waves it off. “Oh, probably for the best. Wouldn’t want everyone showing up to the party wearing the same wings, would we? So not done. This Registry, though – what’s that all about?”

“Ah, right, the Registry.” Her wings rustle as she leans forward a little. “Well, supers started showing up a little over twenty years ago. Y’know, people with super-strength, flight, invisibility… at first everyone was really excited, but… well, some of them turned to crime. That’s how my mother died,” she adds, fingering the gold cross necklace around her throat. “A couple state governments decided they needed to start keeping tabs on people with super abilities, and eventually the Feds just made it standard across the board. It was a good idea, for a little while, but…” She shrugs. “Well, everything corrupts with enough time. Now they’re not content with just keeping tabs. They’ve started hunting us.”

“#Government,” Will says, nodding. “’Nough said, kid; you’re talking to a Merry Man. Come to think of it, you might have quite a bit in common with our band, what with your undercover reporting on the run, and all. Lord, I hope that’s as cool as it sounds. What’s a typical day like for you?”

“A typical day…” She tilts her head, thinking. “Well, one of the bonuses of not having other obligations is that I usually get to sleep in, unless I have to get an early interview. I tend to have a couple granola bars stashed away for breakfast, then I’ll either find a newspaper and see if there are any super stories to follow up on, or I’ll work on an article. Around evening I’ll start working on more super-heroey things. Crime fighting doesn’t work so well,” she gestures to her wings, “but rescue work is my specialty. If things are quiet, I might drop by Franklin’s place (he’s my publishing partner) and give him one of my finished articles to send out.”

“Good stuff! Now, you mentioned when contacting me that you go by a few different aliases – Cara Nolan, Attica Wood, Valkyrie… How did you come by this collection of names? Did you choose them yourself, or were they given to you? And of them all, which is your favorite and why?”

“Well, obviously Cara is my given name, so it probably doesn’t need too much explanation. Attica Wood is my pen name. The Registry isn’t exactly happy about the articles I’m publishing, I figured why make it easy? Valkyrie, on the other hand…” She grimaces. “Eh, that was a reporter. Most super names come from reporters, actually. It’s not like we can chase supers around with a pen and paper shouting to know what they want to be called. I almost wish they had, though,” she adds grumpily. “I mean, of all the oh-so-creative names…” She shakes her head. “Anyway, my favorite? My real name, of course. Attica is one part of me, Valkyrie is another, but neither of them are really complete. They’re just masks.”

“Duly noted, Cara. Of course, it won’t take your ace-reporting Attica side to dig up my last question for you. Tell me, what is your author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” His eyebrow arches in invitation. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

She gives a mischievous smile and stands, crosses the space between them, and kisses his cheek. “Did that answer that?”

Will grins enormously. “I think I can read between the lines. On that ringing high note, how ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Roselyn Hendrickson’s work in progress, ‘Flight of the Valkyrie’.

Attica Wood is an undercover reporter trying to bring to light the horrifying secrets of the super-human Registry. Valkyrie is a super with wings obtained in a vindictive experiment. Cara Nolan, the lost daughter of the late Registry agent, Rodney Nolan, is both. Haunted by her heritage and hunted by the Registry, Cara fights to ensure the safety of her kind and her friends… before she’s silenced for good.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided in this post, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”

Rewan Tremethick’s Halloween Prize Draw

My archnemesis—

The dreaded Technology Fiend?!

No, no, not that fell creature from the pit. I’m referring to my friend, fellow author, and Best Nemesis Forever, Rewan Tremethick.

“Phew, okay. What about him?”

He’s organized an opportunity for you to win books, that’s what! Check out all the authors who’ve come onboard and brought a free title along with ‘em. (Including an advance copy of a certain Wilderhark Tale…)

Rewan Tremethick Halloween Giveaway

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Fallen on Good Times

Rewan Tremethick – “Fallen on Good Times” (paranormal detective Noir set in 1920s America)

Fairy tales are warnings. Legend is history. Monsters are real.

America, 1920. The city of Pilgrim’s Wane. The people on the street can be dangerous, the ones in the shadows even more so. Private Detective Laslo Kane is giving up. But then a brutal murder drives a terrified investor to offer Laslo a life-changing sum of money to solve the case.

The fee could set Laslo up for the rest of his life, assuming he still has one when he’s finished going up against the most dangerous crime family in the city.

Can Laslo survive and claim his fee, or will earning a living be the death of him?

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

About the Author:

Rewan (not pronounced ‘Rowan’) Tremethick is a British author who was named after a saint. St Ruan was invulnerable to wolves; Rewan isn’t. Rewan is a fan of clever plots, strong women who don’t have to be described using words like ‘feisty’, and epic music. He has dabbled in stand-up comedy, radio presenting, and writing sentences without trying to make a joke. He balances his desire to write something meaningful by wearing extremely tight jeans.

Website: www.rewantremethick.com/fallen-on-good-times-novel

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rewantremethickauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/rewantremethick

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dEaDINBURGH

Mark Wilson – “dEaDINBURGH” (dystopian zombie horror)

Edinburgh, 1645:

The bubonic plague rages. In a desperate attempt to quarantine the infected, the city leaders seal the residents of Mary King’s Close in their underground homes.

2015:

Mary King’s Close is reopened, unleashing a mutated plague upon the city residents.

The UK government seals the entire city. Declaring it a dead zone they seal the survivors inside alongside the infected. dEaDINBURGH is declared a no man’s land, its residents left for dead and to the dead.

2050:

Joseph MacLeod, born onto the cobbles of the Royal Mile and stolen from the clutches of the infected is determined to escape the quarantined city. Under the guidance of former –marine Padre Jock, he leaves the confines of the city centre and hones his archery and free-running skills.

Alys Shephard, born into an all-women farming community believes a cure lies in the south of the quarantined zone. The finest combatant in the dead city, Alys burns with anger. The anger of an abandoned child.

Something much worse than the infected waits for them in the south, in the form of a religious cult led by a madman named Somna who collects gruesome trophies and worships the dead body of a former celebrity. Added to this, the enigmatic Bracha, a supreme survivalist and sadistic former-Royal with his own agenda stalks the teenagers.

A self-contained story, dEaDINBURGH is a character-driven Dystopian/Horror novel, exploring the human capacity for good, evil and for survival. Inspired by George A Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’, the works of Robert Kirkman and Jonahan Maberry’s ‘Rot and Ruin’ series.

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

About the Author:

Mark Wilson is married father of two, born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire and currently living in Edinburgh with his wife, their son, Patrick and baby daughter, Cara.

Mark left Bellshill Academy in 1991, qualification-free. And worked his way through a huge number of jobs including, window-cleaner, delivery driver, Levi’s salesman, microbiologist and cinema usher.
Mark returned to full time education nine years later, earning his Highers and a degree in micro-biology before entering teaching.

Mark currently teaches Biology in a Fife secondary school and is founder of Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, a company he set up to assist Scottish authors. He writes in his spare time, in lieu of sleep.

As well as his autobiography, Paddy’s Daddy, Mark is the author of four fiction novels. Bobby’s Boy, Head Boy, the bestselling Naebody’s Hero and dEaDINBURGH. His novels have been well received and feature Scottish characters. Mark has several other books in progress. Somebody’s Hero (sequel to Naebody’s Hero), Prophets (an irreverent look at the return of Moses and Jesus), ML4 (a YA time-travel novel), a follow-up to dEaDINBURGH and the thriller, The Man Who Sold His Son.

Mark is also co-founder of Paddy’s Daddy Publishing

Website:  markwilsonbooks.com

Facebook:  facebook.com/markwilsonbooks

twitter: @markwilsonbooks

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Undead at Heart

Calum Kerr – “Undead at Heart” (Zombie/Alien invasion)

It is a sunny afternoon in the heart of England and all seems normal. But when a burning truck flies through the air and lands in the middle of the road, it changes Nicola and Tony’s lives for ever and sends them on a breathless journey into darkness. In the company of other refugees, on the run from aliens and zombies, this is the story of their desperate attempt to find safety in the midst of chaos.

‘War of the Worlds’ meets ‘The Walking Dead’ in this novel from Calum Kerr, author of ’31’ and ‘Braking Distance’.

This book also includes a bonus extra – the short-story ‘Judith’.

Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

About the Author:

Calum Kerr is a writer and lecturer in Creative Writing. He is director of the UK’s National Flash-Fiction Day and has published two collections of flash-fictions with more on their way. He lives in Southampton with his wife, step-son, two cats and a dog.

Website: www.calumkerr.co.uk

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/calumkerrwriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/calumkerr

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The Memory Game

Sharon Sant – “The Memory Game” (YA ghost story)

If there is a hell, I think maybe this is it.

Weeks after fifteen-year-old David is killed by a speeding driver, he’s still hanging around and he doesn’t know why. The only person who can see and hear him is the girl he spent his schooldays bullying.

Bethany is the most hated girl at school. She hides away, alone with her secrets until, one day, the ghost of a boy killed in a hit-and-run starts to haunt her.

Together, they find that the end is only the beginning…

The Memory Game is a ghost story like none you’ve seen before.

An Amazon bestselling eBook

Amazon UK / Goodreads

About the Author:

Sharon Sant was born in Dorset but now lives in Stoke-on-Trent. Aged eight she wrote a poem about ET, which received the ultimate praise of being pinned onto the classroom wall, and from that moment on she knew she’d never stop writing. She graduated from Staffordshire University in 2009 with a degree in English and creative writing. She currently works part time as a freelance editor and continues to write her own stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes across many genres, when not busy trying in vain to be a domestic goddess, she can often be found lurking in local coffee shops with her head in a book. Sometimes she pretends to be clever but really loves nothing more than watching geeky TV and eating Pringles. Young adult novels Sky Song, The Young Moon and Not of Our Sky (the Sky Song trilogy) and Runners were all released in 2013 to glowing reviews. The Memory Game is her sixth novel. She is currently working on a series of Runners prequel stories, the first of which is scheduled for release early 2014. To find out more you can follow her on Twitter where she’s always happy to chat.

Website: www.sharonsant.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonjsant

Twitter: @sharonsant

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Sun's Rival Cover, front

Danielle E. Shipley – “The Sun’s Rival” (Wilderhark Book 5, YA Fairytale)

Next to the uncommon beauty of her sisters, Princess Laraspur feels invisible, until she learns the two most powerful kings in the world have their eyes fixed upon her. But the ensuing double-courtship goes horribly awry, requiring Laraspur to brave the secret perils of earth, sea, and sky, on a quest that will try the very essence of her being.

Coming December 2, 2014 / Goodreads

About the Author:

Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself.

…Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them.

She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing young adult novels, she’s probably blogging about it.

Website: www.deshipley.com

Blog: You are here!

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Danielle.E.Shipley.Author

Twitter: www.twitter.com/DEShipley

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Winner takes all on Halloween, so add your name to the raffle today!

The Launch of “Legends and Lore”!

Legends and Lore

Sing hey for Release Day of “Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions”! Have you purchased your copy? ‘Cause it’s totally available!

The blog tour’s been running this last week-and-a-day. If you haven’t yet, feel free to peruse the stops linked below. (And the Rafflecopter giveaway‘s counting down the last hours, so get your entries in quick!)

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October 14 = Quetz’ Domain (review of “The Brother-Sister Fable” / Q&A with Alyson Grauer)

October 14 = The Author Visits

October 15 =  Semi Short Chic (Q&A with Sarah Hunter Hyatt)

October 16 = Vampires, Crime and Angels … Eclectic Me (Q&A with Emma Michaels)

LegendsandLore_blogtour500px

October 17 = Penny Writes (review of “Charon’s Obol” / Q&A with R.M. Ridley)

October 17 = Julkbearreads’s Blog

October 17 = Michael Cross Books

October 18 = A Book and a Cup of Coffee (Q&A with Sarah E. Seeley)

October 18 = The J. Aurel Guay Archive

October 19 = Inspired Writers (Q&A with Lance Schonberg)

October 19  = Slithers of Thought (excerpt of “Peradventure” / Sarah E. Seeley’s reviews of all the other stories in the collection)

October 20 = More than a Writer (Q&A with Danielle E. Shipley)

October 20 = D. Lee Jortner (review of “Two Spoons”)

October 20 = Jodi L. Milner, Author

October 21 = Candy O’Donnell (Q&A with A.F. Stewart)

October 21 = Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind (“Legends and Lore” editor Penny Freeman’s take on the anthology and bringing it to life)

October 22 = Are You Afraid of the Dark? (Q&A with M.K. Wiseman)

October 22 = Reading in Sarah’s Corner

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In related and quite exciting news, the “Legends and Lore” release party is today! Join us, 4pm – 8:30pm MST (that’s 6pm – 10:30pm Central/Deshipley time), for fun and games, author chats, and prizes like this little beauty of a keychain I custom made (with a little… well, a lot of help from my family) in honor of my anthology contribution, “Two Spoons”. I hope to see you there!

Two Spoons Keychain 1

In Which I Achieve Web Wizardry

Once upon a time, there was an author who suffered from a terrible curse.

To wit, her dread archfoe, the Technology Fiend, despised her with all passion. He got his kicks by tainting anything she touched requiring a battery, plug, or modem, and was particularly tickled by thwarting her attempts to become computer savvy.

Our poor author grew understandably fearful of treading in enemy territory. Every click of a button authorizing yet another account or threatening one more upgrade sent spasms of anticipatory horror through her heart. But much as she would have liked to stay far, far away from all terrors technological, she was, as I said, an author – and a self-publishing author, at that. In this day and age, an author is expected to blog, have a website, show her face on social media. And a mostly self-pubbing author with no other employment doesn’t have enough cash to hire someone else to do all the scary Internet stuff for her.

So when the day came that our author – who also happened to be something of a perfectionist – looked upon the “My Books” page of her website and thought, “I suppose this serves its purpose well enough, but it’s not all that I want it to be,” she had no recourse but to suck up her anxiety and figure out how to work a little web sorcery.

And that author… *solemn nods* …was me.

Time to put on my big girl wizard robe and get ‘er done.

Time to put on my big girl wizard robe and get ‘er done.

Opinions will vary on what’s needed to make a website look “professional” (which I feel is a kind of snotty term, in general, since when you’re good at what you do, you can do it your own way and make it amazing, never mind some arbitrary standard clung to by the masses. But I digress into artistic anarchy…). My personal minimum requirements/preferences are that it be clean (because I don’t deal well with clutter) and simple to navigate (because isn’t the whole point that visitors be able to find the information they’re looking for?).

What nagged at me about my site’s original “My Books” page is that it wasn’t immediate enough. You started at the top with the cover and info for my first published book (“The Swan Prince”), then scrolled down to get to my next book, and the next, and so on chronologically, through the whole of my Wilderhark Tales (to date), my first professional anthology (“One More Day”), and my debut novel (“Inspired”), until you reached the current position on my publishing road and the page’s end simultaneously. All very well, but why couldn’t I have that deal where the covers of all the available books are presented at once in a neat little gallery, and clicking on one will take you to another page dedicated to that one book (or perchance the whole of its series) only?

Because I didn’t know how to make it happen, that’s why. And I was scared to try to learn. But if being scared were enough to stop me from doing things, I wouldn’t have any published books to show off on a website in the first place.

So I went to my site’s dashboard thing. And I stared at it, looking for some kind of hint or guidepost. I’d seen other Weebly-powered sites pull the trick I wanted, so there had to be a way…

Website Dashboard

What am I even looking at, right now?…

Aha! Down there, what’d that say? “Tip: Drag pages up/down to reorder and left/right to create subpages.

Subpages! That sounded like exactly what I wanted!

Now came the true test of courage: Sacrificing the sure thing I had in order to reach for what I knew, if gained, would be better.

There’s a great, honking life metaphor, for you.

After much stressful experimentation, uploading pics, copy/pasting text, fiddling with format, and careful linkage, I had a brand new at-a-glance “My Books” page, complete with subpages for each and every title. Like. A. Boss.

It’s… *sniff* …beautiful.

It’s… *sniff* …beautiful.

Sure, I screwed up a bunch of times. Yes, I crashed the browser once. Never mind how many hours later it pushed my already ridiculously late breakfast. I got my heart set on a goal, put my mind to the task and came out with one more tally mark next to my name on the Danielle vs. Tech Fiend scoreboard.

And oh, hey, would you look at that: My new page’s gallery of covers includes the face of “Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions” – the Xchyler Publishing paranormal collection set to release on Wednesday (party over here!). If I do say so myself, it does look mighty fine. ^_^

To Ware and Not to Wear (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 10)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every second Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘To Ware and Not to Wear’!”

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[The curtain rises on the Labyrinth set, in which stand Allyn-a-Dale as Jack Snow, Annabelle Gray and Sir Wilbur Lamb from INSPIRED, and – in a shocking turn of events – Little John returned as the Antichristmas Beast!]

Annabelle: Antichristmas Beast? Who or what is that? And on a Uri scale of one to ten – one being trying to be fashionable in a big, floppy hat with flowers, ten being the End of All Days with no hope of salvation – how bad is it that we’re lost in the Labyrinth with this guy?

Allyn/Jack [darkly ]: He is my enemy. The enemy of peace and joy, hope and mercy, and essentially all things Christmas. An enemy I thought I had seen forever slain. How is it you now stand before me, Beast?

Little John/Beast: I am returned by the Shadow.

Sir Wilbur: As ominous as it is vague, that.

Annabelle: No kidding. “Inkheart”s Shadow, formed of fire and the ashes of Capricorn’s slaughtered victims? Classic radio’s Shadow, knower of what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Let’s have some specificity.

Little John/Beast [annoyed ]: I don’t have any specifics. I was dead – destroyed by the power of Snow’s sword – and then, without explanation, a creature calling itself only “the Shadow” conjured me into this maze. I’ve been roaming the corridors ever since, all alone. …until lo and behold, my old foe appears.

Allyn/Jack: What dark power would wish you restored to life?

Little John/Beast [glowering ]: Maybe some people actually like me. Did you ever think of that?

Allyn/Jack: In between those times you tried to kill me? No, the thought never once crossed my mind. If something brought you back, that something is bad news.

Annabelle: Scale of one to ten?

Allyn/Jack [eyeing Annabelle sidelong ]: Worse than a floppy, flowered hat.

“What?” I can hear Hatter say. “I would totally wear that!”

“What?” I can hear Hatter say. “I would totally wear that!”

Sir Wilbur: So we should beware this Shadow.

Annabelle: We should also beware being lost in the Labyrinth forever. We’re still missing the Mad Hatter and our way out.

Little John/Beast: I know the way out.

Sir Wilbur: Do you indeed? Then perhaps—

Allyn/Jack: No. Absolutely not. Don’t you dare propose we form a temporary alliance with my archnemesis. I won’t stand for it.

Annabelle: Aww. But hero/villain team-ups are so cool.

Sir Wilbur: And our options are limited, Jack. I’m not suggesting you should like your former enemy – only that you should consider setting aside your differences in favor of a common interest.

Annabelle: Diplomacy. It’s what his knightly order’s all about. “Talk first, slay as a last resort,” that’s their motto.

Sir Wilbur: Um, not verbatim, but near enough. What say you, Beast? Would you be willing to guide us safely from this place?

Little John/Beast [stroking beard in drawn-out thought ]: I might. On one condition. [points one large, clawed finger at Annabelle ] Her.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Steven Bourelle and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘big, floppy hat with flowers’ and ‘the Shadow from Inkheart’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”