You Can’t Miss It

I made it back to Germany alive! …Which is mostly important because it means that my next novel – i.e. the first installment of my three-part love letter to the Robin Hood legend –  is still on track to release on schedule.

Fact 1: One of the very many things that makes “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” a delight of a book is… it comes with a map.

Ballad Cover, front 02

That’s right. A professionally hand-drawn fantasy map, up at the front of the book. I’m told readers go nuts for that kind of thing, so when I rubbed elbows with a mapmaker at my home Renaissance Faire – (big thanks, Jesse Kennedy!) – you better believe I commissioned him to cartographize* the magical Avalon Faire, home to Camelot’s heroes and Sherwood’s most wanted.

*(Pretend“cartograph” has a verb form.)

But why stop at a map in a book when you can have, say, a print of a map on your wall, too?

Benevolent overlord author that I am, I would like to gift you this.

I would also like to sell a heck-ton of copies of “Ballad”.

I have hopefully thought up a way to achieve both.

Fact 2: E-books of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” are **Now Available For Pre-Order**

…And those who pre-order said e-books will be rewarded.

Step 1: Hit up Amazon, Smashwords, and/or Barnes & Noble and make your early purchase of “Ballad” – yours to read the instant Release Day hits on July 12. (Also distributed through Kobo and Apple iBooks, if that’s your jam.)

Step 2: E-mail me at Danielle.E.Shipley@comcast.net with

2a) proof of your “Ballad” e-book purchase (a receipt or screenshot of such will suffice), and

2b) the address to which you would like me to mail your very own print of the Avalon Faire map.

Step 3: Reap your thank-you goodies.

*Offer good through July 5, 2016 (one week ‘til Release Day)*

Avalon Faire Map, sneak preview

Avalon Faire Map, sneak preview

Fact 3: You won’t get only a map…

Your prize map will be autographed by none other than Robin Hood and his merry band!

That is, it’s my hand doing the autographing, but I worked out with the band what each of their individual signatures would look like, so huzzah.

What’s more, the first 20 people to pre-order will receive a Smashwords coupon for a second “Ballad” e-book for a friend! Know somebody who you think could use more minstrelsy, magic, or Merry Men in their lives? Give them the coupon with my regards!

And if I reach 50 pre-orders? *wiggles brows* Everybody gets an additional mystery prize.

Whereas if I reach 100 pre-orders, I’ll probably ugly-cry with joy. But we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

What about the paperbacks?

I’d love to have those available for pre-order too, buuuuut I don’t know how to make that work. So you’ll have to wait ‘til closer to Release Day for a “Ballad” hard copy. And of course, Launch Week will come with its own giveaway prizes, so here’s looking forward to July!

In summary: Maps are awesome. I’ve got “Ballad” and maps. Tell your friends.😀

Next Day Edit: Apparently I can’t type my own e-mail address. <_< That’s Danielle.E.Shipley@comcast.net, folks. Apologies to anyone who may have tried to contact me without that all-important second C.

Altered

Hey, yo. Mostly just trying to keep myself together as I prep for the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” summer release and my upcoming return to Germany. Meanwhile, though, I felt like gifting the dear ol’ blog with a bit of attention. So here – have one of those out-of-the-blue bits o’ fiction that sometimes spill out of my brain. I call it: “Altered”.

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“Dragon Mountain” by eddie-mendoza on deviantART

“Dragon Mountain” by eddie-mendoza on deviantART

Today, the dragon comes.

They’ve chained you to the altar stone and left you – this winter’s sacrifice. I can’t know if your shaking’s from dread or from cold.

Your eyes are wide and darting, searching for me. I told you I’d be here for you. I told you I’d see you freed. I am, and I will. I hope you can trust me, even if you can’t work out my hiding place.

My gaze moves between you and the sky. The sun’s dipping lower, the Cursed Mountain’s shadow stretching closer. As near as anyone can figure, the dragon’s roars never sound ‘til the shadow’s crossed the altar’s runes. We have minutes left.

I flex my grip on my sword, bought with every coin I had, plus a few more I saw no choice but to steal. It will be worth it, once the dragon’s slain. Once I’ve broken the hold the mountain’s had over our land for years longer than anyone’s sure of. Once you’re free to live your whole life long, and I’ll never again have to fear losing you to a monster.

Shadow and altar touch. You pull away, as far as you can, as far as your shackles allow. I turn away, my eyes on the mountain. Any moment now I’ll hear—

The roar. The air ripples with it. The power of the sound knocks me to the ground, and for the space of the breath I can’t take, I’m too scared to move. Because the roar came from too close.

It came from you.

When I can lift my head, I catch only the end of the change. The stone’s runes glowing unearthly-bright beneath you, you stretch and twist and thrash and grow. Another roar, riding from your throat on an eruption of flame. Somewhere within the sonic blast, I hear your scream of terror.

There never was a dragon. There were only the sacrifices, cursed upon the altar. What have we been doing?

Your alteration complete, your first chain breaks, the sharp sound shocking me out of stillness. I burst from my hiding place, sword drawn, calling your name the best I can with a voice scared half-worthless. Your eyes have finally found me, and they shine red, the pupils slitted like a snake’s.

You speak, your voice again somewhere inside the dragon’s.

“Please…” you say. You back away, your head dropped low on the end of your long neck, shimmering with scales. “Please. You promised.”

“To slay the dragon,” I say.

“To see me freed,” you plead. “And free I am, to be gone from this place. To discover the truth of what I have become. Will you let me go in peace? Or are you my champion only when I am powerless?”

My racing heart slows as, beat by beat, you make no move against me. At last, I swallow. Fill my lungs. Speak.

“You loved me when I was the stronger,” I say. “I will do no less for you now.” I plant my blade’s tip in the snow. “Fly, my friend.”

With the snap of your second chain, you raise your head. Your wings unfurl, starkly silhouetted against the twilight sky. Your tail sweeps around to rest before me, the ridges rising like a staircase up your spine. Your dragon voice rings out: “Fly with me.”

And so we rise together, our whole lives long awaiting.

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(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha.)

Aloha, Comfort Zone

Hawaii 01I’ve recently returned from a trip to Hawai’i. My sister and I flew down to Maui to visit our uncle (MASSIVE THANKS FOR INVITING US, dude!), and if I had to summarize the whole experience in a single word, I believe I would choose… “uncomfortable”.

Hold up! That sounds worse than I mean it. Let me elucidate.

Y’know what’s not comfy? Air travel.

Airports stress me out. The crowds and the busyness. The gazillion signs everywhere and the blaring loud-speaker announcements (for me? Not for me? Do I have to try to figure out what they’re saying? Am I doomed?). The sitting around, waiting to stand around, lined up so I can sit for hours longer in a cramped economy seat on a plane that might (probably won’t, but might) crash and kill me. Also, the struggle [between trying to stay hydrated at flight altitudes and not peeing yourself while waiting for an onboard bathroom to open up] is real. Plus Dianne and I neglected to bring travel snacks, so… that was dumb. But we survived, with a little help from Hangman and charades.

Why not rename it Uncomfortable Beach?

I could honestly get into the idea of using HAZMAT suits as everyday-wear. The world is gross, and I prefer to touch it as little as possible. But you can’t live like that on the many and varied beaches of Maui. Sand calls for sandals – or, just as often, for bare feet. It’s the only way to play with the opalescent waves that act all coy ‘til you’re close enough to drench up to the hips.

People sunbathe for comfort??

For some, “vacation” conjures up an image of lounging on a sunny shore doing absolutely nothing. I’ve never done that before. Now I’ve done it for hours. It was… weird. Getting nothing done. Ignoring any kind of to-do list. Anti-productivity. It should’ve been my kryptonite. Instead, I watched the ever-changing water, and let my mind wander with no clear objective, and startled up straight when Dianne and I spotted what we’re pretty sure was a sea turtle, riding under a wave. We also got painfully sunburnt, ‘cause sunscreen, girls. Use it.

“Adventure” and “comfort” are not synonyms. (Unless you’re Gant-o’-the-Lute.)

IMG_2239b

Maui is not all beaches.

It’s also mountains under a near-constant cap of hazy clouds, periwinkle shadows in the morning mist, or with and a peach-and-lavender twilight behind them.

Big colorful blooms bursting from every bush – hibiscus, African violets (which are orange, of all colors), and blossoms that serve as harbingers of mangoes.

A hundred kinds of greenery – grass and fronds, leaves and needles, trees that twist or reach up tall and straight or look like they’ve got to be either painted or made of playdough.

And hilariously enough, chickens roaming everywhere. Crowing through the forests. Wandering through backyards and way-out-there wilderness. Quite often, crossing the road. (Your guess as to why is as good as mine.)

Over the course of three days, unser Onkel* drove us all over the island. (* German; “our uncle”.) Along the shore, up mountainsides, through a bit of a national park.  We clambered over rocks and watched for whales and kept cool with shaved ice – a local treat that puts snow cones to shame. We cruised the highway with the windows down, island music bouncing from the radio as we crossed a volcanic wasteland. We hiked treacherous paths to overlook hidden coves of red sand or spectacular cliff-side ocean vistas.

Sometimes a sight was such a special kind of gorgeous that it kind of hurt my heart. My photos couldn’t do them justice. I hope my memory will.

IMG_2272b

Nothing comfortable about putting me behind the wheel!

So Dianne and I could explore on our own time, the uncle rented us a car. Dianne, alas, is not yet 25 – the minimum age to drive a rental in this country. That meant the task fell to me: The Shipley voted Least Likely to Be Driving, Because No Thank You. But we weren’t about to let our uncle’s generosity go to waste, so there I was, trying to navigate Maui’s roads of insanity.

Hawaii 03

Why do these street names all look alike? Maybe because you can’t actually read the sign until you’ve almost passed it. Of course, one street can have three or four names, depending on which stretch of the road you’re on; guess you should’ve made that left turn at Albuquerque.

Even with Dianne’s eyes glued to the map on her phone, we got lost as often as we didn’t.

IMG_2435, etc

We also figured out routes to a couple of cool touristy areas, where we could browse potential gifts for our family, and Dianne could get a bangin’ new tattoo, and we could eat perfect ice cream beneath a banyan tree that spread for a block. We made our way to a spot where the waves crash up through a hole in the ground. We somehow survived miles and miles of twisted mountain roads that liked to narrow to one lane with a rock wall on one side and a sheer drop on the other, just in time for traffic coming the other way around a blind curve.

Heaven and hell on a single island. I’m shocked to be alive. Mahalo*, Lord.

(*Hawaiian; “thanks”.)

“Comfortable”s not the word for a night beach.

Because we could, we also drove to a nearby beach after sunset.

Walking the shadowed shore felt illicit, even though we were hardly the only ones out there. The water seemed a dark and formless thing – a place for ghost ships and monsters of myth. We didn’t dare anymore to get close enough to let the waves touch us. Instead, we sat on a lifeguard station abandoned for the day.

Listened to the surf’s stage whispers.

Tipped our heads back to gaze at the stars.

Sang a melancholy medley at the bedazzled sky.

Never comfortable. Better than.

^ Hawai’i in a coconut shell.

This is Only the Beginning

Everybody know what day it is?!

“Cover Reveal Day!” cries Will Scarlet.

No, that was actually two days ago.

“St. Patrick’s Day,” says Allyn-a-Dale.

The snakes of Ireland beware. But that’s not what I’m talking about either.

“All right, then – out with it,” says Will. “What’s the occasion this time?”

It’s the 2-year anniversary of my first published novel, INSPIRED!

Allyn’s brows fly upward. “Two years already! …Or ought I say, only two years? How time does race by at a crawl.”

True dat. Either way, this milestone calls for revels. So I’m providing goodies of two different sorts.

1) “Thoughts and Impressions” – an INSPIRED excerpt, as read by me

Because nothing jinxes my ability to get through a few paragraphs without blunders like trying to capture it on camera.😄 But we got the video in the end. Click here to view!

Thoughts and Impressions

2) “This is only the beginning” – INSPIRED doodles, as sketched by me

Because I don’t take nearly enough time to draw self-fan-art, these days.

Full sketch-dump, as dictated by my muse

Full sketch-dump, as dictated by my muse

Annabelle detail

Annabelle detail

Abishan detail

Abishan detail

Yves detail

Yves detail

Knight detail

Knight detail

Light detail

Light detail

Inspired_Cover_Draft_Final_web

I feel a little bad that there’s no Uri representation in this piece. Then again, Annabelle and Wilbur were deprived of speaking parts in a video excerpt where everyone else got to talk. So, y’know, fair’s [un]fair.

Happy anniversary, dear novel o’ mine! May this day’s tribute inspire old readers to revisit your pages, and new readers to discover all the stories you have to tell.

Join the celebration! Share your INSPIRED thoughts and impressions in the comments!

Less-Than-Hidden In Plain Sight

Everybody know what day it is?!

“My birthday!” cries Will Scarlet.

No, that was actually yesterday.

“The Ides of March,” says Allyn-a-Dale.

Caesar beware. But that’s not what I’m talking about either.

Elaborate fake shrugs from both. “Then we give up.” “Whatever could it be?” “The suspense!” “Oh, pray, do tell!”

You goof-nuts know perfectly well: It’s Cover Reveal Day for your very first novel!

“Noooooo!” Will gasps in delight.

“Show!” Allyn commands.

Very merrily do I…

Cover and Spine, Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale

(Pictured here: Front cover and spine)

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale (The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One) — a contemporary YA fantasy coming your way on July 12, 2016!

Huge thanks to Lars and Milan van de Goor for the photography and design!

You can read my thoughts on the cover (and maybe a sneak peek inside of the book itself… *wiggles brows*) via the wonderful volunteers who have joined me in sharing “Ballad”s face on their blogs. (To see me pointing and hollering thanks to them individually, watch my Twitter.) As for here and now, I’mma step aside and let certain other relevant parties share their opinions. Merry Men: Sound off!

Robin Hood

Robin Hood = “Nice,” he says, eyes a-sparkle. “Very ‘spirit of Sherwood.’ Why, the way through the woods looks good enough to commit robbery upon!”

IMG_1871_5

<<<>>>

Marion Hood = “I love the light,” she enthuses. “You couldn’t do this book’s cover without a touch of magic, and those golden rays provide just that. Plus, how could I not love the robin?”

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Will Scarlet = “Needs more Will Scarlet,” he declares. “Preferably shirtless. Or in lieu of that, at least throw in a showy splash of red, somewhere. But I mean, if we’ve got to go in another direction, this is pretty, too. *Cough*, just not as pretty as me.”

<<<>>>

Little John = *silent nod of approval*

Meekest of Minstrels

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Allyn-a-Dale = “It’s the wrong lute, of course,” he murmurs, with a glance toward me. “A photograph of your instrument, not mine. But the facts aside, the book’s truth shows through rather well. Though it does not show everything – no cover could – I believe it hints at the heart. I can hear my story in it – shining in the sunlight, breezing through the trees, captured in the letterwork’s curves. The music is a match, so I am pleased.”

I could ask for no more. ^o^ …No, scratch that: I could ask that the gorgeous book be out and in readers’ hands YESTERDAY. Alas, we’ve still got a few months to wait. Feel free to add “Ballad” to your to-read list on Goodreads in the meanwhile!

So, world at large – what do YOU think of the cover and novel soon to come? Share below!

Kiss, Marry, Kill

Welcome to the Stranger Than Truth Club Minutes, featuring conversations between me and my closest group of friends – one, my IRL bestie, the rest… a little reality-impaired.

“But what we lack in so-called reality,” Will Scarlet inserts, “we make up for in awesomeness!”

Fact, that.

The way of it is, the Stranger Than Truth Club takes people from all walks of life, universes, times, and species, and brings us together through beautiful, ever-evolving, cross-plane friendships.

I wish I could give you a glimpse into our insightful, loving, hilarious, open community. Unfortunately, I can only give you transcripts of our idiocy.

And so without further ado: Truth is stranger than fiction. We are—

Stranger Than Truth 02

In which the StT gang plays “Kiss, Marry, Kill”. 3 names. 3 choices. Unlimited shenanigans.

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Amie, Tirzah, Apple

Bruno: Sy, you’re into forgiveness, right?

Sy: *flat look*

Bruno: That’s what I thought. It’s all fun and priesthood until you go after his daughter.

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Galahad, Gawain, Gilbert

Arthur: There’s probably a better system to base this around than ‘can I marry Gilbert, please’… And I’d get Looks from Lancelot if I killed Galahad.

Bedivere: Everyone gets Looks from Lancelot, sire. It’s the only look he has.

Arthur: Guess that settles that. Sorry about killing you, Gawain; you gave me exceptional service.

Gawain: Just what everyone wants to hear before his king kills him.

<<<>>>

Lancelot, Mordred, Will Scarlet

Dalvin: The trouble with killing Mordred right off is that you then must kiss and marry Lancelot and Scarlet.

Mordred: You just assume he kills me?

Bedivere: Um, enemy of the state. …But really, of these three, you might make the best husband. I’ll kill Will. He’s a literal red shirt. And that way I get to make out with Lancelot and make him super uncomfortable. He’ll probably punch me.

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Dalvin: I’ll kill Allyn. He’ll appreciate it most.

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Lute, Gawain, Robin Hood

Amie: I’ll probably marry Robin… kiss Gawain… and run from Allyn for the rest of my life.

Robin: We’ll live on the lam. Trust me, it’s fun.

<<<>>>

Arthur, Little John, Gilbert

Robin: A couple of my best friends and Gilbert. Really, Marion. It’s a good thing you’re not on this list, or you know what’d happen to you.

Marion: You’d marry me.

Robin: Under protest.

*

Robin [mutters]: If I were a real trickster god, I could get out of this…

*

Robin: Would everyone – just hypothetically – know I killed Arthur? Or would it be sorta ~mysterious~?

<<<>>>

Tirzah: Weylah can’t pick for Little John. She’s too kind. She’d pick, like, herself, Marion, and… Guy of Gisborne.

<<<>>>

Gilbert, Villem, Sy

Edgwyn: Maybe I’ll be the monster who kills Gilbert so I can kiss Villem and marry Sy. Sy’s my baby; I can’t do anything horrible to him.

Sy: Except kill Gilbert.

Edgwyn: !!! Oh, no! You needed him! This is going to be a very strained marriage.

Sy: Damn it, man, you killed my first choice for husband.

Gilbert: *isn’t sure whether he’s laughing or crying*

<<<>>>

Little Allyn: Finally, I get to kill someone! And kiss someone! And marry someone! It’s like everything I ever wanted!

<<<>>>

Lute: You’re in a bad position, Syawn. Everyone knows all your weak spots.

Sy: I know. That’s why I try to keep all the power.

Danielle: Heart on sleeve, hammer in hand. Back up.

<<<>>>

Allyn: I’d have to kill Danielle. It would upset Father least.

Danielle: Nice.

Lute: My books are written.

Reads and Trees (Love-a-Thon 2016, Mini-Challenge)

LoveAThon 2016

I’m back with more Love-a-Thon fun! This time, a mini-challenge:

We all love books, but there are other things we’re passionate about too! Mash-up a non-bookish hobby/passion/talent/fandom with your bookish life. Do it through photos, art, videos, etc. Get as creative as you’d like!

If there’s one thing I love the way I love books – one thing that provides me a soul-nourishing escape the way they do – it’s the forest. So for this post, I trawled Tumblr for images combining the bibliophilic with the woodsy. Here are some of my favorite finds. Enjoy!

zzForest7

zzForest12

zzForest15

*

Photo credits to:

http://bibliowitch.tumblr.com/post/138683408460/went-hiking-today-and-of-course-took-my-book-along

http://evenings-inside.tumblr.com/post/138309450171

http://koffeebook.co.vu/post/139014464659

http://toxicsugarcubes.tumblr.com/post/138402323645

http://untrustworthyreader.tumblr.com/post/139109186520/new-on-my-reading-list

http://bitingalaxy.tumblr.com/post/138570027598

https://matches-inthe-glitter.tumblr.com/post/138487505980/fairy-tale-aesthetic

http://let-theoceandrain.tumblr.com/post/139042202810/you-are-nature

http://ice-queen-of-hell.tumblr.com/post/138629097615/arbores-loqui-latine-the-trees-speak-latin

http://perdida-entre-las-palabras.tumblr.com/post/139056247886

http://bogotaotonal.tumblr.com/post/138874496602/leyendo-en-el-parque-foto-por-bogotaotonal

http://ther-happy.tumblr.com/post/138484758914/each-time-you-read-a-book-a-tree-smiles-knowing

http://supernaturalshadowplay.tumblr.com/post/138807327396/bookish-shadow-playing-i-took-a-break-from

http://pollyandbooks.tumblr.com/post/138584951107/dreams-of-japan-by-shima-on-flickr

http://alittlebookblog.tumblr.com/post/137891047959/papercutpages-the-woods-are-lovely-dark-and

http://insidethebookreader.tumblr.com/post/132299347054

Any of you know of more gorgeous photos in this vein? Throw ‘em at me in the comments; I will gladly gaze. ^o^