Something in the Water (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 Ginger Mann.

The siren of the Jilted River; permanent resident of the Hollows. She is lovely in face, with a voice that can stop a man cold in his steps. However, if she keeps at him for long enough, we may never see him again.

Allyn looks from his script, to Will Scarlet, to the audience. “This will go badly.”

“Welcome, Jilted River siren lady!” Will greets the woman center stage. “So glad you could join me. First things first – do you actually have a name? ‘Cause ‘Jilted River siren lady’ runs a bit long.”

“Name?” She moves toward her chair, not walking to it but instead, almost flowing. Her dress makes a silver train around her wrists and feet. “I haven’t been called a name for over a hunnert years. Seems I remember my fiancé once called me ‘Brenda’.” She stares at him blankly. “How ‘bout Brenda.”

“Brenda works! So. A fiancé, huh? Who was the lucky guy?”

Brenda’s eyes shoot daggers at Will Scarlet “Lucky? Did you say lucky?” She clasps her hands together, letting them disappear into each other. Her form is that of a gorgeous young woman with raven hair, coal black eyes, and bright red lips. And, inexplicably, she is dripping all over the floor of the set.

“…Or possibly not so lucky,” Will backtracks. “By the way you stop short of calling him your husband, I assume the wedding somehow fell through?”

“Heh. It fell through, all right. It fell right on through the growwwwnd,” Brenda drawls, leaning back into her chair. “I didn’t do nothin’ to deserve what he did. Loved him with all my heart, adored him like nobody else ever before. Used to sing to him, and show him off to my girlfriends. We were gonna sing right to each other in the weddin’. There I was, all dressed up in my corset and such, holdin’ my flowers, waitin’ on the banks of that river. An’ he shows up and runs off with my singin’ bridesmaid.” Her face starts to shift, and lose its shape.

“Yikes…” says Will – though whether he’s referring to the scandal, Brenda’s face, or both is anyone’s guess.

Seeing her image on the set monitor, she quickly reforms herself into a pretty teenage girl. In a higher, sweeter voice, she finishes, “But, Will, that was nearly a hunnert years ago now. Let’s leave the past in the past, okay, honey? We’re here right now, that’s all that matters.”

“That sounds like a, uh, very healthy way of looking at things. Moving merrily along, then. I notice you and I happen to have a few things in common. Both of us legends around our local forests – Sherwood for me, woods out in the Appalachians for you. Both of us looking bloody good for our magic-enhanced ages and irresistible to unwary hearts…”

Looking at Will appreciatively, her eyes travel the length of his finely clad body. Her arms begin to transform, lengthening and tapering at the ends. Vines begin growing out of her open hands, slowly winding their way down her chair leg and creeping across the floor toward her host. Almost imperceptibly, a forked tongue darts out of her mouth.

From off-camera, Allyn ahems. “Um, Will…”

“I’ve got this, thank you,” Will waves him off, then carries on addressing Brenda. “I gotta say, though, a state park’s underground river sounds like it could be an even cooler place to live than an immortal Renaissance Faire.”

Leaves from her growing vines begin to tickle the ankles of her host. “Oh, you should hear the birds! In the morning when they wake up, singing and hopping around.” She leans in closer. “Do you sing?”

“Uh, not according to Allyn,” says Will, squirming back in his seat. “But, um… I was going somewhere with this… Disappearances! There seem to be a lot of people going missing in your area.”

Vines travel up the sides of his legs, and begin to tickle him under the knees.

“And— ah-haha! You’re a friendly one, aren’t you? But y’know, given that sirens are the sort to lure people into iffy circumstances with vocal beauty even certain minstrels I know might be hard put to match, I can’t help guessing you might be involved. With the missing persons, I mean.”

Vines have grown quickly over the back of Will Scarlet’s chair, and their leaves now begin to stroke him on his cheek.

“You, uh,” he says, his focus clearly dissolving as he leans into the leafy touch. “You wanna give us a hint as to your motive behind all the kidnappings?”

All foliage disappears instantly, and her eyes open wide. “Kidnappin’? I didn’t know about no kidnappin’s. I just stay down in my little river valley an’ take care of my birds. They sing real purty. Ever hear this song? Oh, the cuckoo is a pretty bird, she warbles when she flies . . . I sure love how yer eyes are getting’ all dreamy, Mr. Sparrow. Er, I mean Mr. Scarlet.”

“Will!” Allyn snaps off-camera.

The host’s head whips around. “Wha—? Hang it, Allyn, you broke my concentration! What were we talking about?”

“There were vines—”

“Never mind! New question.” He turns back to Brenda, grin cocked. “What do you look for in a man?”

Vines mysteriously reappear behind Will Scarlet, and remove his hat. “Oh, I look for all sorts ‘a things. Fer instance, does a man look good in blue? An’ does a man have a purty singin’ voice? What kinds ‘a songs d’you know? Wanna sing a duet?”

“Blue? Singing?” Will frowns. “Just my luck; she likes the Gant-o’-the-Lute type. Well, fine, since singing’s such a big part of your shtick: Do you have a favorite song, or type of music?”

The tips of the vines stroke Will’s hair sensuously. “I just loooove the songs you love, Will Scarlet. Why don’t you sing one for me, an’ I’ll chime on in? I got a real knack for singin’ with men, you know. I can make you forget all about yer talk show an’ ever’thing else that ever bothered you. D’you know this song? Black, black, black is the color of my true love’s hair . . . His face is soft and wond’rous fair . . . You gotta sing with me, Will Scarlet, or this don’t work!” Brenda’s eyes begin to smolder.

“Time for the final question,” Allyn says firmly, braving a step into frame despite any risk posed by his blue-clad, black-haired appearance. “Tell us, Brenda: What is your author Ginger’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?”

Ginger??? she hisses, taken aback. “You mean that guurrrl? I don’t get t’know gurrrls. They got nothin’ fer me, and I got nothin’ for them. All I care is that she can’t sing, so I leave her well enough alone. But I also know she’s one big liar. She don’t look a thang like that picture she put out on the internet. She’s dressed up like some high falutin’ city slicker, but everybody ’round here knows she’s just a crazy ol’ lady on th’ yonder mountain. She raises chickens over there, funny lookin’ chickens. They’re all round, like little basketballs. It ain’t right, but that’s no business of mine. There. That secret don’t cost you nothin’, Will Scarlet. You get it just ’cause I like you.” The vines criss-cross over his chest, hugging him to the chair. One leaf tickles his cheek flirtatiously.

Will casts a glare at Allyn. “You didn’t do it right! You left out the all-important ‘Or would you rather kiss me?’!”

A snake crawls from her mouth and travels across her watery lips, licking it like a tongue. “Oh, Mr. Scarlet, I thought you’d never ask. Not that I need you to.”

She lunges forward, arms open wide. Her mouth engulfs his entire head in a surge of water. Vines melt away with her body, and a giant fountain overwhelms Will Scarlet, submerging him before anyone can do more than cry out in alarm.

One second later, a gush of water flows down the storm drain and away from the set. “Good-bye, Will Scarlet,” Brenda’s voice echoes from the pipes. “Good-bye for now.”

An utterly disheveled Will sits in his sopping wet chair, drenched hatless head to toe, mouth agape. A long moment passes with no sound beyond the drip, drip, drip of water and the labored breathing of a man nearly drowned. Then, “I say, Allyn?”

“Yes, Will?” Allyn says through gritted teeth.

“How ‘bout a quick word from our sponsor?”

Squelching with a huff back to his spot off the stage’s center, Allyn recites, “Today’s Kiss & Tell segment was brought to you by Ginger Mann’s ‘Jilted River’ a short story included in The Toll of Another Bell: A Fantasy Anthology.

A teenage girl, Trystan, arrives at the Hollows with her widowed forest ranger father and her twin brother. Two hikers are lost, and the family is there to help. She remembers the Jilted River siren, but she tells herself that it’s just a story. Then, the rescue mission ends badly: one hiker disappears, and two men, including Trystan’s father, vanish on the search. Terrified, Trystan must solve a dark mystery and bring everyone home, before it is too late.


“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will, wringing out his shirt. “Thanks even to you, Brenda. 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!”

Go West, Steampunks!


Xchyler Publishing’s first collection of Steampunked classics mined inspiration from the literary treasures of Europe. Now another lineup of authorial talent is back for book two, this time looking across the Atlantic to find their muse.

Mechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology” launches this weekend, and its blog tour is in full swing. Welcome to my stop, featuring both my review of the anthology and a fun Q&A with one of its authors, M. Irish Gardner!



Meet an MMAA Author!

M. Irish Gardner

A day-dreamer at heart, M. Irish Gardner has dabbled in imaginary worlds from Day One and developed an incurable addiction when she finally began recording her ideas. Her bachelor’s degree in recreation management does nothing for her writing, but she sure knows how to play. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two daughters, and all the characters in her head. Gardner’s first published work, “Reformation,” appeared in A Dash of Madness: A Thriller Anthology.

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Share how you came up with the concept for your story? 

This is actually the first time I’ve started a story without a full concept in mind. I found Emily Dickinson’s poem, “A Charm Invests a Face”, and decided to create a story around that. Cyborgs are popular in steampunk. And everyone loves a good gypsy character, so I rolled with it.

Any other published works? 

My only other work is “Reformation” in A Dash of Madness, released June 2013.

What is your preferred writing genre?

I have found that every story I write must have some element of romance in it!

And preferred reading genre?

I love stories that incorporate romance, adventure, suspense, and fantasy, all in one neat little (or big) bundle!


What are your top 3 favorite books?

The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter series

Do you have any particular writing habits?

I like to use alliteration, if that’s what you mean. I also tend to mix up idioms…

Do you have a playlist that you created while writing your story?

Nope. I’ve learned that my words sound much better than they actually are when music is playing. I have to work in silence so I really “hear” the words.

Panster or plotter?

Short stories – pantser. Full-novels – plotter.

Advice for writers?

Read, then practice. Read, then practice. And don’t give up.

What’s up next for you?

I have a non-fiction piece I’m just wrapping up. It’s about a woman who became very ill while pregnant with her second child and spent three months in the hospital. When she left, she was a triple amputee and blind. She’s been wanting to write her story for six long years, so I was really happy that she asked me to help her. I’m hoping her book will be released in 2015, but we still haven’t finalized a publisher.

Who would you cast for your main characters and why?

Romain Duris

I actually don’t have a solid image in my head for my heroine, but my hero is totally Romain Duris. I was searching online for “French actors” to get an idea of what my character would look like, and as soon as I saw him, I said, “YEP! That’s him!” :D I’ve attached the picture I used for inspiration while writing. I think it would inspire anyone…

Author Favorite Things:

– Quote = “Falling flat on your face is still moving forward.”

– TV show = Oh, too hard to choose! I love The Musketeers, Firefly, Vikings, Alaska: The Last Frontier, Chuck, Dexter, Lost, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, New Girl, and many more. Maybe I should watch less and write more!

– Comic book character = I’ve always had a thing for Batman.

– Movie = The Last of the Mohicans

– Candy bar = Three Musketeers

– Junk food = I’m a total sucker for Starbucks hot chocolate and their slow roasted ham and Swiss!

– Place you visited = I was blown away by the Washington coast last summer, but I think Havasu Falls, AZ still beats them all!

– Restaurant = I love good comfort food, so I have many Italian, Mexican, and American favorite places to eat. I had fantastic Indian food last spring in California, though!

– Island = No man is a…?

Thanks, Ms. Gardner! And now, onto…


I had the pleasure of reading this book well in advance of its publication – and a genuine pleasure it was. The assembled authors rose to the creative challenge of turning classic works of American prose and poetry into steam-powered stories to stand on their own.

Of course, sometimes the nostalgia of a familiar premise worked in a tale’s favor; my enthusiasm for the recent TV adaptation of the Sleepy Hollow legend and fond feelings for the cozy cast of Louisa May Alcott’s best-known work further enhanced my enjoyment of Jay Barnson’s “The Van Tassel Legacy” and Neve Talbot’s “West End”, respectively. The fact that I’m a sucker for a charming con game made D. Lee Jortner’s “Payoff for Air-Pirate Pete” and M. K. Wiseman’s “The Silver Scam” a pair of easy wins for me. And if you like your adventure accompanied by automatons with personality, “A Princess of Jasoom” by J. Aurel Guay is the perfect anthology opener.

Whether you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickenson, the sea beasts of Herman Melville and Jules Vernes or the sled dogs of Jack London, or just a reader who likes a good book with a bit of clockwork flavor, this second volume of Mechanized Masterpieces has the makings of a classic in its own right.


Preorder now, join the Release Party on Facebook this Saturday, and don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Tour Schedule:

February 22 – A Princess of Jasoom by J. Aurel Guay


February 23 – Winged Hope by Megan Oliphant


February 23 – The Van Tassel Legacy by Jay Barnson


February 24 – Invested Charm by M. Irish Gardner


February 25 – Payoff for Air Pirate Pete by D. Lee Jortner


February 26 – Rise of the House of Usher by J.R. Potter


February 26 – The Silver Scams by M. K. Wiseman


February 27 – Nautilus Redux by Scott E. Tarbet


February 27 – Mr. Thornton by Scott William Taylor


February 28 – West End by Neve Talbot

Out of Body, Out of Mind (Jack and the Genre-Nauts, Act 18)

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

“Every second Friday,” 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: ‘Out of Body, Out of Mind’!”


[The curtain rises on the woodland set of Steampunk Sherwood, dimly lit and fog-machined. Having been shot back in Act 15,Will Scarlet as the Mad Hatter lies on the floor, while his shadow – one that looks like little more than cat-like eyes and a massively wide grin, bright as a crescent moon – dances around on the smokescreen. Also on the ground is a furry cloak crumpled over a puddle of goo – all that remains of the Antichristmas Beast – and Annabelle Gray from INSPIRED as Sir Wilbur Lamb in her body. Sir Wilbur as Annabelle arrives from offstage, hefting a fair-sized mirror.]

Will/Shadow: So, you’ve made it back! But no sign of Jack. Oh, where did dear little Snow go? The Shadow knows! [demented laughter ]

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle [to Sir Wilbur in Annabelle’s body ]: I expect he’s been this creepy the whole time?

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: Essentially, yes. As he mentions it, though, where is Jack?

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: We parted ways at the castle. He was in a hurry to get back to the North Pole and recommence his duties as the chosen Santa Claus. Fortunately, he felt he could spare a minute to tell me how to get the Shadow back in Hatter’s body before he took off. Yoo-hoo, Shadow! [holds up the mirror ] You’re still Hatter enough to want to ogle your own face, right?

Will/Shadow: Oooh, mirror, mirror in your hand – who’s the shadiest in the land? Let me see, let me see!

[The Shadow zips closer to the mirror, then – whoopsie-daisy – disappears right into the glass. The stage’s fog clears, the lights brighten back to normal, and Will Scarlet sits up with a gasp.]

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: Hooray, you’re alive! How’s the gunshot wound?

Will/Hatter [surprised ]: What, was I shot??

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: I’m afraid so. By him. [gestures to puddle of goo ]

Will/Hatter [rising to his feet ]: So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. [points to self ] I got shot. [points Sir Wilbur and Annabelle ] You two switched voices. [points to body on the ground ] And the guy who shot me just melted down dead?

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: Yes, yes, and yes, though as far as the third item goes, we don’t know why.

Will/Hatter: I should think it was obvious. It’s the Antichristmas we’re talking about. Nothing can take him down but a concentrated dose of Christmas spirit.

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: Christmas spirit? But how— Wait. [turns to Annabelle in Sir Wilbur’s body ] When you were last with Jack, did you notice anything at all amiss about his behavior?

This pic is only here to illustrate how crept out you need to be.

This pic is only here to illustrate how crept out you need to be.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: As a matter of fact… [face pales ] Oh, heck, tell me you’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting. That is not even Hatter’s-Shadow-level creepy. That is, like, Vashta-Nerada-level creepy!

Will/Hatter [offended ]: What’s so creepy about my shadow?

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle [voice going shrill ]: I’ll tell you what’s creepy about it! Your freaking Shadow switched everyone’s bodies! Now I’m Wilbur, Wilbur’s me, Jack Snow’s spirit melted the body around him, and the real Antichristmas Beast is riding Jack’s body all the way back to the North Pole where he will doubtless contrive to destroy Christmas forever!

Will/Hatter [face slack with shock ]: Jack’s… dead?

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: Yes, you jerk! Wilbur, rip off his arm or something!

Will/Hatter: Whoa, now! Violence is never the answer! Maiming me won’t bring Jack back any more than would flying by opening up your jacket, though at least the latter option would be more fun. Have you brought your jacket?

Annabelle/Sir Wilbur: Believe it or not, Annabelle is making a lot more sense than you are right now. You don’t seem aware of what you become when your body goes into crisis mode. That gunshot brought out your Shadow, as did your entrapment beneath the sky. And your Shadow is powerful, Hatter. Powerful enough to have brought a body back to life once. That’s why the Beast in Jack’s body was so keen to lock your Shadow away again: On the loose, it could bring the real Jack back!

Will/Hatter: What point in bringing back Jack’s spirit in a body that can’t hold it without melting? What Jack needs – what all of you need – is a way to completely reverse whatever it is you say my Shadow’s done. …Or, simpler still, to prevent it from having ever happened to begin with.

Sir Wilbur/Annabelle: How is that simpler?

Will/Hatter [grinning ]: With a TARDIS.


“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Kelton de la Cruz and Tirzah Duncan,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘Vashta Nerada’ and ‘flying by opening up your jacket’.”

“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!”

A Little Heart-to-Heart[singer]

My friend, fellow author, and anthology sister Ginger Mann has recently begun a new series on her blog, Notes from Ginger.

Titled “Character Walks”, the series features unique, in-depth conversations between Ginger and various fictional people their authors were able to corral into the interview. To my gratification and his, Ginger requested a talk with my very own Heartsinger from “Reality As We Know It”, a short story that debuted alongside Ginger’s “Jilted River” in The Toll of Another Bell.

As of Valentine’s Day, the post is live! So hop on over to share in Ginger’s deeper discovery of my tortured, otherworldly musician.

Notes from Ginger


Be Enticed. Be Very Enticed

Anyone in the mood for a cover reveal? ^^ ‘Cause I just happen to have a friend with a new story’s face to show off. …Or, well, perhaps somewhat lower than the face… Fans of paranormal romantic werewolves, rejoice! For the Holloway Pack is back, in—

. . .

. . . wait for it . . .

. . .


Happy Birthday to Ethan.

Or is it?

Gifts aside, Ethan’s morning hasn’t been anything to write home about. Sure, life is good, the pack is staying out of trouble, he finally has a mate who boils his blood … in a good way.

Except Shelley hasn’t called. Hasn’t come by. Didn’t even bother to join her son and his girlfriend for Ethan’s annual I’m-a-year-older breakfast.

What Ethan doesn’t know is that Shelley has plans. Plans that have been in progress for weeks. Ones that Ethan will never see coming, and that she’s banked on him not knowing a thing about.

She can only hope her secrecy doesn’t force his inner wolf to the surface—at least, not too early.

Enticed: A Holloway Pack Mini by J.A. Belfieldcoming April 16th, 2015!

*Can be read as a standalone.

Now available to add to your Goodreads shelf!

R.I.P., Romance (Bloody Valentine Horror Hop)

Four posts in one week?? Am I MAD?!

Nah, I just couldn’t resist jumping into—

The Bloody Valentine Horror Hop!

Bloody Valentine Horror Hop

…As hosted by A. F. Stewart (whose work you may recognize from a certain paranormal anthology I hyped a few months back). This hop is essentially the Anti-Valentine’s Day. (Not to be confused with Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre’s Antichristmas Beast… Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they were like cousins or something.) There’s no sweet romance, or lovey-dovey stuff allowed. It’s down with the idea of candy and flowers. For one day writers and bloggers will dispense with the sappy romance, and showcase the bad side of love.

Today, my blog and that of my fellow participants will be all about the heartbreak, love gone wrong, romantic mayhem and tragedy, hopefully with that little splash of humor and blood – an ode to what happens when the rose petals die, the candy melts, and lovers are looking for payback.

For my contribution, I’m throwing up the lyrics to a dark little song I wrote once upon several years ago. (Well, credit where it’s due: My sister wrote the first line, then I, inspired, jumped in with the rest. …or, well, one of my characters did. But he’s not published yet, so I’m slapping my name on it.) Behold, enjoy, and/or recoil in horror from…

R.I.P., Romance

Give me your wishes:

I’ll turn them to horses

And you can ride them straight to heck.

What, you wanted a sunset?

A ball gown and Charming

And true love’s kiss, maybe?

You get what you get.


The stars cross all lovers;

Why should your tale end

Any better than those of naïve Capulets?

And naïve you are

If you think ever after

You’ll live happily, for romance is dead.


The flowers are wilted;

The chocolates are stale;

A dinner for two involves baby-makes-three.

Used to be, beds were

For more than just sleeping

And “I love you” was more than

Just Greek to me.


Remember the happiest

Day of our lives?

I’d give you a visual, but I’ve lost the ring.

The honeymoon’s over –

That much is apparent;

And romance is buried about six feet deep.


Don’t forget to check out the other blogs on the hop! And if you’ve got anything morbid on the topic of this so-called lovers’ day to add, toss it in the comments below.

IF WILL SCARLET … Showed Up Out of the Blue– I Mean, Red

A continuation of “If Will Scarlet Could See Me Now

Of course, the great, whopping, elephant-in-the-room question behind this whole premise is, What is Will Scarlet doing in my house? Not just in my head, where he’s been ever since about this time four years ago, from which point onward he’s been gaining an ever more prominent presence, but physically here. Outside of me. On my plane of reality. That shouldn’t be possible.

Not that there’s any reason he’d be content to let that stop him.

Suppose I were to wake up one morning – somewhere in the neighborhood of ten a.m. would be about normal for me (prior to going nocturnal, that is) – and get started on living my day by hefting my Bible from its usual place atop my bedside fireproof box and onto my bed. If that morning were, for the sake of argument, tomorrow, I’d be in the book of 1 Timothy.

So there I’d be, curled double over the book, and I’d hear the clatter of the beaded curtain in my doorway. My door, partway closed, would open, and I’d look up, expecting to see my mother, maybe my sister Dianne. And it wouldn’t be either of them.

“Hey, babe!” he’d say, his smiling eyes all aglitter with excitement.

I would have a heart attack.

Not literally, I hope. I mean, yeesh, of all the inconvenient times to die, or at least need an emergency trip to the hospital. More probably, I’d make some strange choking noises as my gasp goes down the wrong way. Before that, I’d freeze – tighten up much as I do when I notice a horrific bug somewhere in my way-too-close-for-comfort vicinity. I’d get this weird and not altogether pleasant fizzy sensation throughout my body. Here’s hoping I wouldn’t lose control of my bladder. I probably wouldn’t. Let’s say I don’t.

Will!” I’m not sure how my voice would sound. Maybe inappropriately angry. I don’t always handle surprise very well.

He’d raise his brows. “Surprised? You seem surprised. I am not surprised that you’re surprised. I mean, far as you know, there is no way I can possibly be here.”

I’d want to touch him. Partly for proof, partly because Will Scarlet exudes touchability. Before I could decide whether to risk a touch, he’d have flung his arms around me. If I weren’t convinced he were actually himself, I would hate it and possibly injure him. Hugs are a case-by-case basis thing, with me. In the case of Will Scarlet showing up on my reality plane, yes; hugs are acceptable.

But that’s if he shows up in my room first thing in the morning, which is not the least creepy way he could make himself known. Let’s dial down the freak-out factor just a hair.

Suppose we’d moved past the morning. Bible, read. Online accounts, checked. Coconut oil, swished around my mouth. We’ll even go all out and say I’m wearing half-decent clothes today. Real jeans and everything; slim fit. Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, the doorbell would ring. Not the kind of ding-dong doorbell you press a button for. We’ve got one of those by the back door, but it hasn’t worked in years. Then there’s the bell by the side door that only works if somebody somewhere opens their garage or something. We’re not sure what’s up with that bell, but it’s obnoxiously startling, and over-loud to boot. The bell I’d hear, though, is the one for the front door; the one you turn like a key to make it chirpily trill. B-rrring, b-rrring! Bicycle bell-ish.

Though optimism is a hit and miss thing, for me, I’d choose to expect that the bell signals the delivery of a package. I’d try to remember if I’m expecting any new books, and would cynically remind myself, Well, we know it’s probably not Edgwyn Pony. I have completely lost track of how long I’ve been waiting for my custom Edgwyn-inspired My Little Pony doll. Part of me fully believes it will not arrive before Christ’s return.

I’d hustle down the stairs – not in any especial hurry, just rarely one to walk up or down our front stairs when I can bound multiple steps at a time and swing wildly around the corner landing instead. Upon reaching the foyer, I could vaguely see someone’s head through the lace curtain over the door’s window. Rats. I was hoping the delivery guy could just leave the package on the porch so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. On the bright side, what little I can see of the guy looks like he’s got cute potential. A little like Will Scarlet, in fact.

This is the part where my hopes would go into overdrive. Not about the delivery guy being Will Scarlet. Even I know better than to expect that kind of miracle. The kind of miracle I’d expect is that this cute delivery guy and I would somehow hit it off while I’m accepting my package – y’know, I think he’s cute, he thinks I’m cute, he’s got a sexy voice (with, dare I dream, a British accent?) – and we’d exchange e-mail addresses and start up a correspondence, and after a couple months, we’d get together in person to, I dunno, catch a movie, grab some lunch (or, dare I dream, browse a bookstore?), and the next thing you know, he’s my best-ever boyfriend, all Facebook-official, and everyone’s so happy for us, and we’re finna elope to England.

Yeah, that’s where my brain goes every time I glimpse a remotely attractive man.

So I’d wrestle with the front door’s lock for an embarrassing fraction of a minute, finally get the door open, and… wow, this guy really looks like Will Scarlet. Same coppery curls, same bright blue eyes, dat smile, wearing copious amounts of red… It’s just uncanny.

“Hi,” I’d greet him, trying to not sound like a dork, ‘cause this could be it, folks. Today, e-mail; tomorrow, England.

“Hey, Danielle,” he’d say. And that would be weird on all the levels, because one, he thinks we’re on a first-name basis, and two, his voice sounds weirdly like I’d imagine Will Scarlet’s would if he didn’t have to go through the voice scrambler of his author’s throat.

I would say “hello”, this time slow and confused.

“Don’t ‘hehhh-lo?’ me, girl. It’s me! Will Scarlet! I’m totally here! Surprise!”

Cue all the previously listed symptoms of shock and the Will-instigated hug. Holy wow, he smells great.

He’d hold up a small cardboard box. “Brought your package,” he says.

“What package?” I’d ask, still dazed and giddy.

He’d say, like it was obvious, “Edgwyn Pony, of course. It’s a day of flying pigs, up in here.”

[To be continued…]