The Mark of an Outlaw

Two things.

1 = Y’know “Manifest Reality”? That horror anthology that came out on Valentine’s Day and features a ~daaaark~  little story by yours truly? Well, today the 24th through Friday the 27th, you can nab an e-copy for F R E E ! Dooo it! Tell your friends! And if, once you’ve read the book, you could do all the authors therein a solid by leaving a review, that would be beautiful of you.❤

2 = Speaking of e-books, the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” pre-order campaign is still going!

For those who’ve forgotten or hadn’t heard, a quick rundown of what that means:

Step 1: Hit up Amazon, Smashwords, and/or Barnes & Noble and make your early purchase of a “Ballad” e-book – 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 (i.e, the outlaw-signed map and an exclusive Smashwords coupon to pass along to a friend).

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

To those who have already taken advantage of this offer, first of all, THANK YOU! Second, you will get your maps! They are already signed and ready to go in addressed envelopes! It’s just that my post office situation is absurdly complicated right now, so it’s taking way longer than I’d like to get them shipped your way. No one’s more irritated about this than me, but you have my word: The maps will be sent. …maybe around the time Arthur ushers in the second age of Camelot, I don’t know…

But hey, you don’t have to wait ‘til then to see what the maps’ signatures will look like!

Because that is today’s special treat from Ever On Word to you. ^o^

Finding each of the Merry Men’s personal autographs would have been a daunting challenge – (what do I know about handwriting? I’ll probably get investigated for badly forging my own signature, one day) – if not for an assist from a fictional friend. You [barely] know him as Gilbert, the genius coloring book artist who everyone wants to marry. He was gracious enough to both figure out the outlaw band’s writing styles and provide commentary on what each signature says about the character behind it. So without any more ado…

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Robin Hood

“A bold, sure ‘R’ to establish his mark, followed by a merely suggestive scrawl for the remaining letters. Were it a charitable work done for another, he’d give it more care all the way through to the end, but he never dwells long on himself. No ‘Hood’ or lordly last name present, as he doesn’t see himself in terms of the names given him by others. Inside, he has ever been simply Robin.”

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Marion Hood

“In contrast, Marion strongly claims and identifies with ‘Hood’ and its associations – wife to Robin, member of Sherwood’s most honorable outlaws, eschewer of decorous noble life in favor of all of the above. Her writing is a legible mix of flourish and precision, grounded but ever ready to dash ahead. Overall, it speaks of balance – her own, and that which she brings to her familial band.”

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Little John

“Someone of Little John’s extraordinary size in a smaller man’s world does well to learn frugality of space. His writing demonstrates that wisdom (note the economy of two ‘T’s sharing a single crossbar) as well as a quiet protectiveness (the ‘I’ and ‘L’ sheltered beneath), and his steady, level, minimalist nature (no frills anywhere, and most letters of a comparable size / overall shape). And though everyone from his bandmates to casual fans of the Robin Hood legend call him ‘Little John’, his signature identifies him by the name he was given at birth.”

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Will Scarlet

“No, of course he can’t use a black pen like everyone else. It must be red, for the color prompts in him the same gut-level response as the sound of ‘Will’. Most of the lines are hasty and sharp, in so much of a hurry to get to the end that he’s as likely to carelessly throw in extra letters as leave them unfinished. He’s not a man of details, but of vivid impressions. But as demonstrated by the grand, showy ‘S’, he’s never too busy to display his foppish side. He’s also left-handed, which may tell you the smallest of somethings about how his brain works (while leaving the rest an unholy mystery).”

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Allyn-a-Dale

“For the band’s minstrel, a written signature is less about its visual appearance, and more about the movement of making it – the rhythm in the writing. Each letter flows one into the other, smooth and lyrical. An understated, unassuming signature, yet as full of Allyn as any song he sings.”

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Ballad Cover, front 02

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.

Pre-order today!

Band Signatures

In Which I Go Mental

Word on the ‘Net is that May 16th – 22nd is Mental Health Awareness Week. I don’t generally get involved in capital Weeks, Months, or Days, but in this instance, I felt compelled to recognize the occasion.

It’s probably to do with the fact that I am gradually becoming more aware of my own mental state, which seems to regularly include episodes of anxiety and depressive tendencies, with some mild OCD-like symptoms thrown in for fun. (Note: None of it is fun.)

And I’m not the only one in my head affected by mental illness. Will Scarlet and Allyn-a-Dale, for instance, have varying issues to deal with, too. Which is why they joined in the whole #InShadowSelfie* thing on the Outlaws of Avalon Tumblr.

*(Details here for those wondering what in the world that hashtag’s about.)

Mind you, I wasn’t planning to blog about any of this, until I realized that it’s been a while since I shared any new book reviews with you guys, and – hey, whaddaya know! – a couple of books I’ve read/very much enjoyed recently featured main characters with mental illnesses.

Kismet or nah?

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Book the First: The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness

Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy/Paranormal

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: OCD, anxiety, anorexia, alcoholism

Blurb: What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

My Story: Majorly enjoyable. A number of lines had me laughing out loud. (Great narrative voice!) Some others drove me nearly to tears. (Relatable mental health struggles are relatable.) I loved the focus on – and the depth of – the main characters’ friendships, including between siblings and potential romantic interests. And the juxtaposition between the story in the spotlight and the plot offstage was a fun quirky touch. Part of me wishes I were rereading the book already.

Edit: Welp, that re-read just happened, and yep, would still recommend.

Mental Health Reads

Book the Second: When We Collided” by Emery Lord

Genre: Contemporary YA

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: Bipolar disorder, depression (plus grief)

Blurb: We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…

Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.

My Story: Hearing about this book in the lead-up to its release, I had a hopeful feeling that I’d like it. I had yet to read any of Emery Lord’s novels (though I’d heard good things), but what I’d glimpsed of her on Twitter seemed cool, and the book’s premise grabbed me – in particular, the part about the bipolar protag. …which isn’t in the blurb, but y’know, rumor had it. (One of my [fictional] friends is bipolar; I figured he’d appreciate having this kind of story in our shared headspace.)

Just to play it safe, I read the first couple chapters before committing to the purchase. And joy of joys, it sucked me right in from page one – like to the point that the gratifyingly busy bookstore faded around, leaving Reader Me in her happy place. Vivi’s voice is vivacious, creative, and fun, while Jonah’s is likewise amusing, if far more grounded. Both co-stars garnered my sympathetic attachment. Aaaaand I basically chose finishing the book over going to bed before 3am. ‘Cause I do what I want.

Confirmed: Emery Lord can write. I may have to try getting ahold of her first two novels after all.

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Some Kind of Happiness

Book the Third: Some Kind of Happiness” by Claire Legrand

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Featured Illnesses/Disorders: Depression

Blurb: THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)
• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.
• Never having met said grandparents.
• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)

Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.

With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination, for fans of Counting by 7s and Bridge to Terabithia.

My Story: I haven’t actually read this book yet, but it releases today (*throws Book Birthday confetti*), and I’ve been looking forward to it and totally pre-ordered it, so hopefully my copy will reach me soon, and if the stars align aright, I’ll tell you how I liked it. ^.^

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So concludes my contribution to this capital Week’s awareness. Stay healthy, y’all.

Shadow Selfie 05

In Which the Hamilfangirls Set Sail

As you may recall, I’m back in Germany. And as you may recall from further back (e.g. here and here), that means walks through field and forest with my BFF and fellow author, Tirzah Duncan. Our first walk of May was particularly delightful.

So much so, that we decided to go back with more guns. And ships.

…That is to say, with little paper boats and a boatload of shameless “Hamilton: An American Musical” references.

(Yes, I’ve totally infected Tirzah with my Hamilton obsession. No, I’m not sorry. Yes again, if you see a phrase in this post in bold, it’s because I’m singing/rapping it in my head.)

We folded and taped up two boats apiece – mine, named for Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette; Tirzah’s, for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Mind you, neither of us were experienced shipwrights, so watching our little vessels face the fearsome glory of a trickling stream proved exciting as watching the afterbirth of a nation. …more or less.

“What’s your name, boat?” “The USS Hamilton. I am United States Ship Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait. Just you wait…”

“What’s your name, boat?” “The USS Hamilton. I am United States Ship Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done. But just you wait. Just you wait…”

Tirzah: [watching the USS Hamilton struggle downstream] You wanna pull yourself together?

Me: [laughs, untangles boat from underwater grasses] There you go, little guy. Non-stop.

*

Me: Lafayette, you’re backwards already! Turn around, bro! Forward! Chaaarge!

Tirzah: [when the boat inexplicably waffles between going with the current and against it] Everyone attack! Retreat! Attack! Retreat!

Me: What are you doing?! Okay, there you go. …No, what are you doing? Are these the men with which I am to defend America? Wow. Maybe something about that keel messed it up after all. So much for the Lancelot of the revolutionary set.

Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting frigate!

Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting frigate!

Me: Last ride. Redeem yourself! Freedom for America, freedom for France! You’re doin’ better this time. …And that’s as far as she goes. Thanks, Lafayette. We’ll be with you when you do.

Waiting ashore, the Burr offer[s the Hamilton] some free advice.

Waiting ashore, the Burr offer[s the Hamilton] some free advice.

As for any among you wondering which of Tirzah’s creations was the more seaworthy – Jefferson or Burr? – well… [Jefferson] won in a landslide. I guess the poor Burr boat will be barred from the [harbor] where it happens a while longer yet. ;D

The Face of Grace

The word on the street: Tirzah Duncan – author of vigilante tale “Cry of the Nightbird” and the chilling “Of Mice and Monsters” (Beyond the Wail paranormal anthology) – and, y’know, my homegirl since NaNo 2010 (aka The Year of the Ballad) – has a new novella up her sleeve.

Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.

Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.

But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.

Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?

Y’wanna see the book’s cover? Pfft, rhetorical question. You absolutely do. Because it is all-caps BOSS.

grace-the-mace-cover

See-ee-ee? I mean, the shine on that buckler alone… *standing ovation* Mad praise to the cover artist for this ridiculous masterpiece.

If you’d like to read a sneak peek of the story, you’ll find a few excerpts waiting for you on Tirzah’s blog, The Ink Caster, and scattered throughout her Tumblr, The Muse’s Thrall. And if you’re ready for the full novella (as professionally proofread by yours truly, thank you very much), then you’re in luck, because Tirzah’s aiming to launch her book baby sometime next month. So keep your eyes open as June nears. And in the meantime…

What do you think of your first look at “Grace the Mace”?

A Little Night Magic

The following drabble (a flash fiction piece of exactly 100 words) was inspired by the picture at story’s end. Happy reading!

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“I’m magic,” he told her. “I’ll show you.” And pulled out a violin.

“Violins aren’t magic,” she said.

“Not even from the air?”

“Seen it.”

“How jaded you are. But have you seen this?”

He touched bow to strings, and where they met, drew out a spark, the line of light like cracking dawn.

Starry smoke curled from the flame-like glow, spreading toward the sky. Colors tinged the haze – green, red, and violet. An aurora borealis born of a stardust song.

“New?” he asked.

“Different,” she allowed.

“Say it.”

She smiled. “Magic.”

“And all yours.” His eyes stars, too. “Always.”

"illuminate my heart," by megatruh on deviantART

“illuminate my heart,” by megatruh on deviantART

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

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.)