That’s the Spirit (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, “Author Alyson Grauer describes Aurael thus:

A manipulative, scheming, slippery, chaotic air spirit whose moral code is basically nonexistent.

“Hoo, boy… Welcome, Aurael!” Will greets the air spirit seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – how terrified of you do I need to be, right now? ‘Cause my own story may or may not involve an air-spirit-esque creature trying to kill me and my band, so, um, hahaha, yeah.”

“Oh really?” Aurael twists his mouth into a bemused grimace and goes back to peeling the wings off of a dead dragonfly. “Sounds like a good time to me… And terror is in the eye of the beholder, Will Scarlet.” He shrugs. “I’m only really terrifying if I get bored.” He smiles thinly.

“Right,” Will says brightly. “Good to know. We’ll try to keep things interesting, then. I understand you currently find yourself bound in servitude. Just between you, me, and our viewership, how would you describe your employer? Any perks to working for him? Paid holidays, dental, that sort of thing?”

Aurael’s expression darkens, his eyes like blank slates of lead as spiky protrusions begin to bump out from his brow, cheekbones, nose, skull… He clears his throat and the spikes vanish. He smooths his windblown, silver-blue hair back with a narrow glare. “Dante is a disgusting piece of mortality, if you ask me. He’s manipulative and selfish and snide. He’s self-centered beyond all reasoning, and he’s got eyes for nothing but his own power. Everything else is barely a blip on his brain.” His teeth bare for a moment and they’re shark-like and jagged. “But seriously, no perks, no vacation, nothing.” He pouts thoughtfully. “It’s like being the only trick pony at the circus, if you know what I mean. Complete garbage.”

“Man, and I thought working under Merlin in an immortal Renaissance Faire could get old. But your existence is sure to have some bright spots. How about this: Of your island’s few locals and those recently washed ashore, who do like the most (…or most enjoy tormenting), and why?”

Aurael’s eyebrows shoot upwards thoughtfully at this. A mixture of emotions cross his face as he ponders. Then he squints shrewdly. “I’ll never tire of torturing Karaburan,” he breathes slowly, his lip curled. “Witch-born that he is. His nightmares taste the sweetest.”

The authoress, from the back corner, lifts her hand in contestation of this. “Ahem, if you’ll pardon me,” she says neatly, “Aurael’s favorite person in all the world is Mira. You could go so far as to say he treasures her.”

Aurael’s hair curls into hornlike protrusions, coiling tightly as steam begins to rise from his brow. He scowls and says nothing.

“Adores her, even,” Aly adds.

Aurael’s eyes go black and he stares back at his author, daring her to take one more step.

Aly pauses. “Why don’t you talk about Mira, Aurael? I’m sure Will and the audience would love to know what it’s like for an all-powerful, immortal air spirit to pine for, long for, and against all odds absolutely love a little mortal girl.”

Aurael’s body breaks apart like cloud-puffs, and is replaced with the shape of a massive hideous, steel-silver harpy with terrible talons and a flesh-rending beak. He roars at the author, climbing over the chair to get at her, but bashes face-first into an unseen wall of some kind. The author goes back to taking notes in her book, and harpy-Aurael snarls and snaps and claws at the wall for a moment before hunching its shoulders and peering back over its wings at Will Scarlet.

Will gapes blankly until Allyn coughs from off-camera. “Pun unintended, Will, but we’re still on the air.”

“Ha! Yes! Sorry, I got distracted by the, um, distracting things. Something about a flesh-rending beak. Aaaaanyway, getting back to our happy place: If you were to be granted your freedom, Aurael, what do you suppose you’d want to do with your life? Any long-term dreams or ambitions? Where do you see yourself in— wait, how long does an air spirit tend to live, anyway?”

The question seems to pluck at Aurael’s heartstrings – indeed, if there are any left within him – and he sighs deeply, melting back into the demi-corporeal shape of a silvery-blue man with dark, dark eyes. He sits in the chair again with dignity, as though the harpy form had not occurred. “Immortality is different for everyone,” he admits slowly. “I don’t make plans like that, because I have all the time in the world. Or at least, I did, before I got exiled and captured and all of this grand nonsense.” He seethes quietly. “But I’ll get free again. I will. And Dante will be sorry.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt it for one moment,” Will says in placating tones. “Of course, a cunning creature like you will have seen my next question coming from a mile off. Tell me, Aurael, what is your author Alyson’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Nerves and excitement roil in his eyes. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

Aurael considers this with a long, smug stare at the author. The author does not look up from her note-taking. Aurael purses his lips and at last folds his arms, putting his feet up on the chair next to him and slouching like a teenager. “Her secrets guard themselves in plain sight,” says the air spirit. “Now that the book is out, anyone at all might stumble upon them. It’s all downhill from here.” He pauses. “And kissing never did anyone any favors, Will Scarlet.” His eyebrows arch, and he smiles that same snarky grin from before. “But if you’re offering, I don’t bite.” His teeth show a little through the grin, still sharp and menacing.

Aly looks up. “He won’t bite you. But watch out for your soul, please – he’ll jab a straw into you like an orange in the old Tropicana commercials and schhhhhluuuuurrrrrpp.”

Aurael scowls. “I don’t even know what that means,” he hisses.

“I know you don’t.” Aly shakes her head. “Never mind.”

“Yeeeaaah, we’ll maybe take a rain check on that kiss,” Will decides. “Or should I say, a full-on tempest check?”

“You shouldn’t,” Allyn advises.

“Oh, come on, it’s perfectly hilarious! Let everyone in the joke with a quick word from our sponsor!”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn dutifully, “was brought to you by Alyson Grauer’s newly released debut novel,On the Isle of Sound and Wonder’.

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“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thank you, Aurael; you, too, Aly! 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!”

So, Wow. THAT Happened. (A Tale of NaNoWriMo in Three Acts)

Prologue

2014: The year I mean to see my way to the conclusion of the Wilderhark Tales. The first new Wilderhark Tale I’ve written in years, the others close to completed when I decided to take the plunge and publish. For the first time, I’m working under the burden of expectation, and in the countdown leading up to the event’s start, the pressure was driving me nuts, to the point where I said to myself, “Y’know what? Screw this. The only way to be less nonsensically afraid of this thing is to just start writing it. And NaNo is not the boss of you. Now’s neither the time nor the place to be the punctilious rule-follower you’ve ever been. Put on your writer pants and seize the day!”

So on Wednesday, October 29th, I branded myself a NaNo Rebel by starting work on the book’s opening chapter.

My fifth NaNoWriMo, you are the one I reclaimed as my own.

– “NaNoWriMo, What Are You to Me?

Act One

There are some beasts you can face down simply by demonstrating you’re not afraid of them.

And then there’s Gant-o’-the-Lute.

Yes, the minstrel in blue introduced in Book Three and spotlighted in Book Four takes center stage once again in the Wilderhark Tales’ grand finale. And though there were some entertaining highlights along the way, neither of us went easy on the other for this one.

Those who follow along on my author page on Facebook had pretty good seats for the drama.

NaNo '14, the View from FB 1

As one could easily gather from my real-time updates, Book Seven’s been an emotional punch to the face. People who would otherwise assume that a Danielle E. Shipley fairytale series must by necessity have a happy-ever-after ending, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But by Barry Manilow, I made it through the rain. Draft one of the novella = completed. Which left me without only about twenty thousand words to go…

Act Two

The following quotes have been lifted directly from a message thread between me and an anonymous friend.

Me: Seriously. I need to decide what I’m doing after this book runs out. I thought about whipping out some Wilderhark short stories, buuuuuut I’m kind of feeling Wilderharked out, right now, what with all the feels I’ve been going through in that world for the past dozen days. I want something easy. Something fast.

Will Scarlet: Sounds like a job foooooor…!

Me: Pfft. You always want me to write about you. … I don’t want to plan anything, ‘cause planning is work. But when I jump in without a plan, angels lose their wings.

Will Scarlet: It’s only 20K. You can dash off 20K like NOTHING if you just turn your brain off and type. Could be fun. Could be cathartic. How ‘bout a fanfic of your life? I could feature in that, hintity-hint.

Me: That idea is dumb. But it also sounds like a lot of stupid crazy fun.

Spoiler alert: It was all those things. For a happy-go-lucky quartet of days, I babble-typed to myself about what I expect would happen if Will Scarlet were to become an actual physical presence in my life. This is the first NaNo I ever let myself write something with zero expectation of ever charging anyone money for the finished product, which for me, slave to arguably useful pursuits that I am, is actually kind of a zany big deal. And who knows? I might be persuaded to share pieces of the story on this blog, sometime. I mean, if there’s an interest.

“HECK, YES!”

Besides yours, Will.

Act Three

And then, out of the blue—

“Ahem?”

Pardon – out of the scarlet… this happened.

Me: Every time I happen across the info for [this] one publisher’s upcoming short story competition, I think, “Man, I wish I knew the first thing about writing steampunk.” … I do have one idea that I might be able to make work… I’m just chicken to try. ‘Cause visualizing the fancy trappings is hard for me. Plus I’m still psychologically wrung-out from my last book.

“Tell you what, D,” Will says – which always makes me hopeful/nervous, ‘cause he’s about to make me do a thing… “Pause on your Will Scarlet fanfic, and we’ll work on drafting a steampunk submission.”

You’ve all met Will Scarlet, right? So I don’t even have to tell you how big— nay, HUGE of him it was to do that. At that point, I basically had no choice.

NaNo '14, the View from FB 2

And, in an instance of exquisite symmetry, this short story idea begun on November 15, twenty-fourteen was a new manifestation of my old nemesis of a project begun on November 15, twenty-twelve – a tale that, I quickly discovered in this latest attempt to finally see it through to the end, has the same mulish soul it ever did.

NaNo '14, the View from FB 3

Little did this story know, I had a few new tricks up my sleeve.

1 = I’d lowered my goal from a novel to a short story, cutting out all the parts I’d never fully figured out anyway in favor of focusing in on that one piece of the story that I haven’t been able to give up on for the last two years.

2 = The imminence and narrowness of the story competition’s submission window served as concrete motivation to wrestle this thing onto the page once and for all.

3 = Oh, silly project, have you not heard? This NaNo is mine. KNEEL BEFORE YOUR MASTERMAID.

“Pretty sure megalomania isn’t a new trick for you, Danielle.”

But it got the job done, Will, and that is what counts.

Epilogue

As of November 16, I have ripped out my heart for Wilderhark, had a field day with my imaginary BFF, throttled my two-pronged fear of steampunk and a punk of a story, and, incidentally, written over 50,000 words.

NaNo-wise, it’s been a year for the books. ;D

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I’ll drink to that. …in my new NaNoWriMo mug that’s so perfectly me, it’s not even funny.

 

The [Nut]case of the Nader Sequel

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When I agreed to let Will Scarlet interview author Alexander Nader as part of the blog tour for his novel debut at the start of this year, I had no idea Will would take this to mean that all Beasts of Burdin-related interviews are now his turf. Guess I’m naïve, like that. So, here we are, with the Burdin sequel on tour. Cue the sketchy saxophone music.

<<<>>>

“Alex Nader. We meet again.” Out of the murky gray of a shady back alley steps the trench-coated, red-fedora-ed figured of Will Scarlet, faux private eye. His smile flashes white in the shadows. “I hear you’ve been busy, but you know me. Rumor and hearsay’s not good enough; I like my answers direct from the source.” He gestures through the door behind him. “Care to come in and answer a few questions?”

Alex*Shakes nervously* I, uh, suppose so, but does that light have to be so bright? I’m sweating over here.

“Oh, sure. Hang on a sec.” Will bends down to fiddle with a mess of cables and gives the fog machine inside the doorway a thump, toning the atmosphere down a few degrees. “There we are,” he says, circling his desk to drop into his chair. “Make yourself comfortable. Now then: Word on the street is Ty Burdin is back. …Well, I say ‘on the street’,” he says, withdrawing a Burdin of Choice paperback from his coat’s inner pocket. “More like ‘in the blurb’. Can you confirm this? Is the hunt for demons back on?”

Alex: It’s true, it’s all true. There’s always a few demons that could use a little off the top. And by little, I mean a lot. And by a lot, I mean their head. It’s a decapitation joke, because, you know, it kills everything and all that. *Laughs nervously, drums fingers on desk*

Will grins and gun-finger salutes. “I see what you did there. Glad to hear Burdin’s trilogy is carrying on apace! My source in the field” – this said with a wink for Danielle who, as ever, is on hand to do the note-taking – “tells me that writing a Book Two can be a whole different animal, compared to writing Book One. What was your experience, as far as Beasts vs. Choice? Which posed the greater challenge?”

Alex: Choice was definitely the bigger challenge because I had expectations to live up to. When I wrote Beasts I had never been published and had nothing to lose. With Choice I have a few fans and people I didn’t want to let down, so that caked on the pressure. Luckily Ty let me borrow some scotch and it really smoothed out the ol’ nerves.

Will’s brows rise. “Generous of Ty, considering he keeps his friends close and his liquor closer. But then, every street-smart character knows that what’s good for the author is good for us all. Speaking of characters, while nosing around Goodreads, I uncovered a review of the book naming Burdin’s secretary Nora as a favorite, using such descriptive terms as ‘absolutely gorgeous’ and ‘nutty as a fruitcake’.” Will coughs a laugh. “I’ve been called both on multiple occasions. From where you stand as author, does it look like Nora’s got the makings of the trilogy’s breakout star, a la that brilliant scarlet swordsman of ‘Outlaws of Avalon ’?”

Alex: Nora is definitely a big part of the series. When I started writing the first book, she didn’t play a very big role, but my first readers loved her so much I decided to step her role up in the series. She’s a lot of fun to write and super important in Ty’s life. He’s a bit of a screw-up and needs people like Nora and Hartnet *clears throat, nudges Danielle* to keep him grounded.

Danielle: Hi-i-i, Hartnet!

“Keep it together, Danielle. I’m on a case. Now,” Will says, turning back to his interviewee, “I don’t wish to alarm you, but I caught some punk on the corner sporting some suspicious swag.” His hand in and out of his coat’s pocket once more, Will extracts a number of photos zoomed in on a colorful flask, a compact mirror depicting a lounging tattooed female, and a beer mug reading St. Sebastian’s Bar & Grill. “Says he got the merch from your e-store. Is he legit?”

Alex: Yup, it’s true. Anyone can go to zazzle.com/Nader_Swag and pick up some awesome Burdin merch. I’ve seen pictures of one of those compact mirrors out in the wild already.

Will’s face lights up. “I was hoping you’d say that. Oy, Danielle! Can we get a poster?”

Danielle: When I’m less broke.

“Sweet! All right, I think I’ve got all I need from the horse’s mouth. Thanks for taking the time to set the record straight. Be seeing you, Nader. And watch out for demons!”

Alex: Hahahaa, I fooled you. I made it almost an entire interview sounding like a real person. You will never know my secret, Scarlet. NEVER! *Slaps interrogation light, runs out front door wearing only boxers and a t-shirt that says, ‘Demons are all in your head’*

Will blinks. Several times.

Danielle: What… just… happened?

“Honestly,” says Will, sweeping his pile of evidence into a desk drawer, “pretty much just business as usual, around here.”

<<<>>>

 

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Title: Burdin of Choice (Beasts of Burdin #2)

Author: Alexander Nader

Publisher: J. Taylor Publishing

Release Date: November 10, 2014

Keywords: Urban Fantasy

About the Book: Ty Burdin is back. Back to drinking and back to avoiding demons. He is, of course, the leading expert in his field. In both subjects.

That’s probably why, when a customer offers him way too much money just to locate a missing car and some mysterious cargo, he readily agrees. The dude is human after all—Ty’s prime target client base.

Along with the money comes a slew of disappearances which Ty tries to ignore while tracking down that car, because, of course, those missing people might be demon related, and as he’s said before, that’s agency business. Not his. Period.

Until today.

Ty Burdin is to back drinking as well as everything he vowed never to get involved with again.

Question is, which one will kill him first? The booze, the demons, or the Agency?

Alex Nader

About the Author:

Alex lives in the tourist infested hills of east Tennessee with his amazing wife/muse and three superb children. He would tell you more about how awesome they are, but you probably wouldn’t believe him. When he’s not hanging out with them he’s making pizzas and occasionally he jots a few words down. He’s a big fan of good music, good storytelling, and fun, lots of fun.

He once wrote a short story about pirates to his wife via text message that blossomed into a full length novel and never stopped after that.

Goodreads  /  Twitter / Facebook  /  Website  /  Blog

“Burdin of Choice” is newly available via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This-a-way to add “Burdin of Choice” on Goodreads, and that-a-way to enter the tour-wide Rafflecopter giveaway.

Tale as Old as Tale-Telling (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 11)

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: ‘Tale as Old as Tale-Telling’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on Will Scarlet as the Mad Hatter, lying prone beneath the weighted sky curtain atop the mountain set.]

Will/Hatter [tragically ]: Three acts gone by since I blundered into this position, and no sign of a rescue from Jack Snow and company! Have they all forgotten me? Have they even noticed I’m gone? [dejected sigh ] Am I so easily replaceable that they can’t tell me from a Norse trickster god?

[Speak of the trickster, who should appear from around the sky curtain but Gant-o’-the-Lute, portrayer of Loki.]

Lute/Loki: Less replaceable than you are easily parodied. But how now? [crouches down to something nearer Will’s level ] Still here, Hatter? And doing none too professional a job, either. We’re getting complaints below about the sagging state of the sky.

Will/Hatter: You! Insolent imp, how dare you lead my friends into the Labyrinth without me? Who knows what horrible things they’ll be forced to contend with! Traps! Monsters! Demented knife-wielding lemurs! [struggles beneath the sky curtain ] They’ll be having all the fun! Let me out! Out, I say!

Demented knife-wielding lemurs. They’re not only a thing; they’re a T-shirt. http://sebreg.deviantart.com/art/Knife-Wielding-Lemur-Tshirt-192915951

Demented knife-wielding lemurs. They’re not only a thing; they’re a T-shirt. http://sebreg.deviantart.com/art/Knife-Wielding-Lemur-Tshirt-192915951

Lute/Loki [patting Will’s cheek ]: Keep your hat on, Wonderlander. They’ve encountered no lemurs, last I looked. [unnerving chuckles ] Just run into an old friend from Fairytale Forest.

Will/Hatter: Oh? Who? That heartbreakingly handsome Woodsman?

Lute/Loki: One better: The Antichristmas Beast.

Will/Hatter: Really? I’d gotten the impression he was the farthest thing from any friend of Jack’s. Not to mention dead. What’s he doing in the Labyrinth?

Lute/Loki [grinning ]: Bargaining for Annabelle.

Will/Hatter [head cocked in puzzlement ]: What would the Beast want with—? Wait. Don’t tell me. He needs her love to break a curse, right?

Lute/Loki: Close, quite close. A tale not old as time, but old as tale-telling. Think, Hatter. What is Annabelle?

Will/Hatter: Single black female in her latter teens; likes fictional hotties and long walks in her imagination. I should ask her out for tea.

Lute/Loki [eyes rolling ]: An author, Hatter. Annabelle is an author. And if you were a character killed off from your tale, what would you want an author for?

Will/Hatter: The prestige. Emotional eating. Tax breaks.

Lute/Loki: You make no sense at all.

Will/Hatter: Hold on, you’ll break my chain of thought. Algebra. The lobster quadrille. A story! He’d want another story!

Lute/Loki: Precisely. Once they leave that Labyrinth, bookish beauty and beast will be off to lands uncharted, plots unplanned, fates unknown. He may actually make it out alive, this time. She may not.

Will/Hatter: Why tell me any of this? I’m trapped helpless beneath the sky. *cough* Thanks to you. *cough*

Lute/Loki: No. [lifts the sky curtain with one hand, pulls Will up to his feet with the other ] You’re coming with me.

Will/Hatter [compliant ]: Brilliant! [contrary ] Like Tulgey Wood I am! [curious ] Coming where?

Lute/Loki [eyes shining ]: To head them off at the pass.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Tirzah Duncan and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘demented knife-wielding lemurs’ and ‘The Prestige’.”

“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!”

Such Stuff as @DreamsToBecome Novels Are Made On

Everybody get excited! A super rad-tasitical gal is coming out with a book!

…No, not me, this time. …I mean, yeah, me, on December 2nd. But BEFORE that, there is THIS!

On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

I was clamoring to get my hands on an ARC of this one. Alyson Grauer (known as @dreamstobecome on Twitter) is mah girl — not to mention my Ren Faire workfellow and Legends and Lore anthology sister. I had the utmost faith that her debut novel would be a thing of wowsomeness. Guess who was not disappointed?

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The story swept me along with the ease of a wave in a gale, the author’s skillful choreography of questions, revelations, and points of view holding me in thrall page after page. Perhaps it is in part a testament to Grauer’s love of theatre shining through that I felt (uncommonly for me) less like a reader and more like a wide-eyed spectator watching a play unfold on my imagination’s stage, complete with humorous scripting and fantastic special effects. I enjoyed moving back and forth between the ensemble cast – from the independent Mira, to the guileful elemental Aurael, to the piteous Karaburan, to the assorted castaways caught as pawns in a twisted magician’s plot. I may or may not have stayed up until three in the morning to find out how it all resolved.

You don’t have to be familiar with the Shakespearean work behind the novel to enjoy it, for this retelling stands tall on its own merits. And if you do happen to be a “Tempest” fan, I expect you’ll only find more to love.

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Find Grauer on the web: Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Pinterest

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On the Isle of Sound and Wonder by Alyson Grauer

Heck yes, I’ve already ordered my copy! And you don’t have to wait until the official launch date of November 21* to demand your own. Go forth and experience the wonder. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway going on throughout the blog tour (the full schedule of which can be found here). And be sure to watch this space for the Kiss & Tell show scheduled for the 22nd, when Will Scarlet sits down for a chat with one of Alyson Grauer’s company of castaways!

*P.S. – That’s when the release party’s coming to Facebook. You’re ALL invited! Come play!

Burdin 2, Launch ‘n’ Review

Know what day it is? Huh, huh? Do ya, do ya? Release day for a friend o’ mine’s sequel, that’s what!

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The Book: “Burdin of Choice (Beasts of Burdin #2)” by Alexander Nader

Ty Burdin is back. Back to drinking and back to avoiding demons. He is, of course, the leading expert in his field. In both subjects.

That’s probably why, when a customer offers him way too much money just to locate a missing car and some mysterious cargo, he readily agrees. The dude is human after all—Ty’s prime target client base.

Along with the money comes a slew of disappearances which Ty tries to ignore while tracking down that car, because, of course, those missing people might be demon related, and as he’s said before, that’s agency business. Not his. Period.

Until today.

Ty Burdin is to back drinking as well as everything he vowed never to get involved with again.

Question is, which one will kill him first? The booze, the demons, or the Agency?

My Thoughts: Ty’s stubborn determination to turn his back on demons, this time around, was good news/bad news for me as a reader. On the one hand, there was the off-color entertainment of Ty repeatedly letting everyone around him know just how far down under the Agency could stick their agenda, as far as he cared. But on the other, his avoidance of anything that even smelled of demon amounted to him avoiding much buildup of a plot. It took most of the book before there was any real edge-of-your-seat action of the sort that kept pages turning in the first volume of the series. Nonetheless, the smart-aleck narration did a bit to help smooth over the pacing issues and kept me from boredom; I continued to enjoy Ty’s relationship with colorful secretary Nora and cool cop brother Hartnet; and the concluding chapters suggest that there’s plenty in store for Burdin and company in the trilogy’s final installment. I’m looking forward to it!

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Well, if you’re looking for your Burdin fix after Book One, you’ll have a long wait for Book Three if you don’t, now won’t you?  And/or, y’know, you could just gaze at this seriously awesome Beasts of Burdin swag, for a while. (Nader’s set up an online store, yo! Somebody buy something with “Danielle E. Shipley” on the cover so I can blow cash on that poster!)

“Burdin of Choice” is newly available via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And make sure to come back next Tuesday (not tomorrow; the Tuesday after that), when Alex will find himself once again grilled under the interrogation lamp of a certain scarlet private eye.

Hot Enough For Ya? (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 reads the introduction, as provided by author Kendra Conine:

Ashley Vaandere [Pronunciation: Van-dare-uh] Optimistic, perky teen a bit wiser than her years. A lover of dancing. Athletic, clever, but a little lacking on the trusting side. Uncanny skill when it comes to battle.

“Welcome, Ashley!” Will greets the girl now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – tell the audience the story of how we met! Because darned if I can remember; we’ve been inter-authorial friends for ages!”

“It was so long ago!” Ashley exclaims, throwing her arms up in very firm emphasis. “Well, it was during a Blogfest on Flame Writer, I believe!”

“Your author’s blog, yes? And?”

“I had been given a personal interview or blog post of some kind, and you commented that I was hot.”

The sound of palm smacking forehead comes from off-camera. “An all-too-likely story.”

“I know, right?” Will tosses a smirk over his shoulder at Allyn. “I get around, like that. What happened then, Ashley?”

“After that our authors exchanged e-mail addresses and Facebook accounts and we’ve hung out ever since.” She shoots him a grin.

“And a true joy it’s been! There’s little I love more than making new buddies like yourself. On that topic: Apart from me – ‘cause, y’know, let’s be fair – who would you name as your BFF?”

“Heh,” she chuckles. “Well, to be honest, it’d have to be my brother Alex. I mean, apart from him being blood, we’ve always gotten along and liked the same things, and why else would I chase him across an entire state on foot in the winter? I sure didn’t do it just for fun!” She folds her arms behind her head with a nostalgic expression. “We’re so close – and cliché – that we have friendship bracelets.” She holds up her wrist to show a simple red, orange, and yellow string bracelet. “Good times.”

“Friendship bracelets!” Will exclaims. “Why don’t the Merry Men have those? I’ll be bringing it up with Robin. Now, going back to your author’s blog: In a recent post you hijacked (to which I say, way to go, girl),” he approves with a fistbump, “you mentioned your life’s happenings include illegal cross-ocean journeys, heart-to-hearts, exploring places unseen for 2000 years, and talking to Greek gods and goddesses. Of those, which do you enjoy most, and which the least? Why and why?”

Ashley more than gleefully returns the fistbump. However, for perhaps the first time with Will, her expression darkens as he summarizes the current events in her life. (Kendra shifts uncomfortably behind the curtain, expecting to be yelled at later by Ashley’s brother.) “Well, the illegal journey was rather terrifying, actually.” She scratches the back of her neck with a weak smirk. “Especially since we fell into the ocean one thousand miles away from shore. We made it, though. So that would be the least enjoyable, followed closely by talking to the gods, since they’re on the verge on wanting me dead, but the most enjoyable would have to be seeing new places 2000 years later.” With that, the light returns to her expression and she smiles, bouncing her knees. “We found this place that is a bit of a combination between a grotto, a waterfall, and a cave all in one. All you can hear is the waterfall, and you can tell no one has set foot there for ages. It’s surreal, and all of the water refracts the sun and makes the entire grotto sparkle. Sights like that are unforgettable.”

“Ooh, a sparkle grotto? Sounds gorgeous! I wish I could see that. But maybe there’s something even better to be seen here and now.” He leans forward eagerly. “Word is that one of your story’s inciting incidents is your incendiary power. What can you tell us about the whole fire thing you’ve got going on? And if I were to reassure you that we’ve got the safety measures and insurance in place, would we be able to get a little demonstration?”

“But we don’t—”

“Not now, Allyn! What do you say, Ashley?”

With a laugh, Ashley jumps to her feet without hesitation. “Well, long story short, Hephaestus gave some fire to a guy who screwed up, with eight other elements from other gods. This guy also happens to be our antagonist. Considering he’s 2000 years old too, he looks very good for his age. Anyway, so those elements got broken up into nine different families, my family got fire, and Alex was born with it. He gave me some later without telling me.” She tosses her long brown hair over her shoulders. “And a demonstration…” She throws her arms up, spinning in place. Flames light at her feet and spiral around her, opening outward like flower petals. She bends down and scoops them up in one hand, combining them into a fireball, and tosses it into the air. The flames fan out overhead before flickering away, and with a childlike smile of glee, Ashley returns to her seat.

“That,” says Will. “Was. INCREDIBLE! Allyn, did you see that?!”

Allyn’s too busy shutting off the heat-activated sprinklers to respond.

“Ah, well. Time now for the burning question on everyone’s minds: Tell me, Ashley, what is your author Kendra’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” His eyes shine like blue fire. “Or would you rather kiss me?”

With a rather evil grin, blue eyes shining just as brightly, Ashley rubs her hands together. (Kendra cringes.) “I’ve been waiting for this. She likes to physically act out fights instead of imagine them, which often results in a blaring stereo and her running back and forth through her house when she’s home alone. She counts her blessings that no one has ever come to the front door in the midst of her ‘rehearsals.’” She cackles and rises from her seat, rushing over and giving Will a friendly peck on the cheek. “And I can’t say no to a kiss, so I’m stealing both options! Ha-ha!”

Will hoots with laughter. “You brazen double-dealer, I cannot even handle how much I adore you! Allyn, how ‘bout you distract me with a quick word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, flicking the sprinkler water from his hair, “was brought to you by Kendra Conine’s work in progress, ‘The Flame Cycle Saga’.

After waking up on her thirteenth birthday to find out her brother is missing and that she’s causing fires with her mind, Ashley leaves home to seek out her brother, suspecting a connection between the two. Little does she know there’s so much more to it, including a war of elements forgotten over the course of history and the fact she’s at the center of it all.

“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks, Ashley-babe. 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!”