Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Bard in Blue

Less than a month ‘til the launch of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” (the Kindle edition of which is totally available for pre-order)! And in looking forward, I can’t help looking back – back to the legendary romance that inspired much of my upcoming novel. Back to perhaps my favorite chapter in a treasured telling of my number one literary outlaw. Back to the first meeting between Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood and the minstrel Allan a Dale.

allan-a-dale-tells-his-story

In homage, I’ve recorded a read-aloud video featuring a snippet from the tale. You can watch it here, on the “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page. And/or you can join me in gazing at some of these awesome illustrations from my 2016 Barnes & Noble edition of “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”. I maybe / maybe not / definitely have this full-pager of a lovelorn Allen bookmarked.

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And I’m sure I don’t even have to tell you who loves this image best…

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Last but not least, allow me to remind you of the fresh spin on this old classic I’ve got coming at you in just a few short weeks:

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There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

See you ‘round the greenwood!

On Me and Matrimony

Ah, Valentine’s Day – or Singles Awareness Day, as I’ve heard it alternatively called.

Like most holidays, it’s just another day to me. But what with the upcoming release of Outlaws of Avalon 2 – “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale” – perhaps it’s no surprise that the other day found me with marriage on my mind. My dreams around that much-romanticized institution have certainly undergone a number of transitions, through the years. From innocent…

5-year-old Me: *wants to marry Aladdin*

Aladdin: *is with Jasmine*

5yo Me: “Oh. …Okay, but can I be Aladdin, though?”

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Tween Me: “Boys are gross.”

Grownups: “You won’t always think so. ;)”

Future Me to Tween Me: *whispers* “Spoiler alert. Everybody’s gross.”

me-to-me

…To psychotic…

Teen Me: *wants to marry Kevin of the Backstreet Boys*

Kevin: *is already married*

Teen Me: “That’s too bad.” *shoulders imaginary shotgun* “…For his wife.”

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Teen Me: *wants to marry a certain boy from art camp*

Teen Me: *follows him everywhere until he’s sick of me*

Future Me: *bumps into the boy again at a concert* … *also, his fiancée*

Future Me: *smiles the smile of the Forever Alone™ *

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New Adult Me: *scans every male face encountered, searching for husband potential*

New Adult Me: *is continually confused/disappointed that not one outing yet has resulted in a “how I met your super-cute billionaire grandfather” story*

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New Adult Me: *wants to marry Edgwyn Wyle*

Edgwyn: *is already married*

New Adult Me: “WHY? Whyyy did I write that?!” *curses self for a fool*

whyyy

Because of course his wife was the only thing standing between me and this fictional character…

…To pessimistic.

Mid-20s Me: “If I truly loved a man, could I really condemn him to a life of matrimonial bondage to an asexual head case like me?”

BFF: “You maybe shouldn’t, no.”

Mid-20s Me: “Nobody asked you, villain.”

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Mom: “Your special someone is out there.”

Late-20s Me: *smiling the smile of the Forever Alone™ * Okay.

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Late-20s Me: “If only I could just marry Will Scarlet and call it a day.”

Will: *laughs too loud and long for anybody’s comfort* “Babe, I love you like no other, but not in a million universes would that work.”

Which brings us to this fine February 14, 2017. ^_^

Me after Germany: “I would rather die than live in a house with some man in it again.”

Allyn-a-Dale: “To be fair, you would rather die than do most things, these days.”

Me: “True. Say, Allyn, what are your thoughts on marriage?”

Allyn: *shrugs* “I was raised in a fairytale world. What do I know?”

Me: “Once your second novel is through with you, maybe a little more…

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marriage-cover-final-frontThere’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.

(Also, the door’s still open for folks interested in an early read ‘n’ review of the book. Hit me up if you want in!)

Babelin to the Bone (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.”

Will Scarlet's Kiss and Tell logo

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, “One of her authors, Tirzah Duncan, described her thus:

What does a pretty 1600s German girl, burned at the stake on false charges of necromancy, have in common with a jaded Chicagoan telemarketer? Only the bare bones. Babelin has changed a lot, surviving the centuries as an animate skeleton, but one thing that’s stuck with her is a firm dislike for the death magic that claimed her.

“Welcome, Babelin!” Will greets the smartly-dressed skeleton now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what does it feel like, being nothing but bones?”

“Physically? A bit dull. Some of my senses are gone, some of them are dimmed, and just two – sight and hearing – are completely intact. I’m capable of less pain, which is nice, but I do sometimes miss the vivid sensations and flavors I remember from my full-bodied life. Of course, I’ve probably romanticized them, over the centuries.”

“Nostalgia is kind,” Will agrees. “Certainly more so than the folks who lit you on fire, back in the day. Would you say the charge that got you executed was entirely unfounded, or did you give any reason to believe that you were in fact a practitioner of the dark arts?”

“As unfounded as were most flying around at the time. Frightened people don’t even need a reason, and I gave them this one: I was pretty. I turned people on and I turned them down, so there were enough jealous and disgruntled folk about who wanted badly to suspect me of something. Ah, humans. We’ve been to the moon, but we haven’t changed.”

“Such is life – eternal and otherwise. Speaking of: Unlike other immortals of my acquaintance, you’ve actually lived through and engaged with all those centuries between your birth and now. Worked in a decent amount of international travel, too. Of them all, which has been your favorite time and place, and why?”

skull-selfie

As seen on the “Dark Siren”-related Pinterest board, “Bones, Souls, and Hellgates”

Thin gloved fingers lace together. “Hmmn. That’s very relative. Modernity has afforded me the opportunity to communicate and connect with people from a place of anonymity— well, hah, sometimes I have an actual selfie as my icon, but no one assumes it’s actually me. It’s nice to just be taken as a human without having to work through layers of prejudice. Place, though – everywhere has its charms and its repelling factors. Most precious to me have been those times and places where I’ve actually made good friends. There was a washerwoman in London who took it upon herself to scrub me back to whiteness whenever I was looking dingy. She didn’t have a lot to give, but she had soaps and rags, and that was how she knew to reach out to me. Honestly, I didn’t much value cleanliness at the time, but I did value her valuing me.”

“Aww, sweet of her!” Will delights. “Gotta love the good eggs of the world. But I’ve heard rumors there’s a bad one in the area – a dangerous new necromancer, possibly planning something big. Those of us living under the protection of an isle full of Faeries and a wizard may have less to fear than others, but what safety tips have you got for the general public?”

She lets out a whistling breath through her teeth. “I guess the only thing I can suggest is the advice I should follow, myself: educate yourself. There’s a lot of benign necromantic activity in the world, and knowing the difference between simply arcane arts and truly dark arts could save souls.”

“Good to know. And of course we all know what’s coming next: Tell me, what is the biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret involving your co-authors, Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley?” A skull-like grin. “Or would you rather kiss me?

The skull tilts. “You know, it’s been a long time since anyone’s offered. Bring it on – no tongue, though.”

“Fair’s fair,” Will laughs, and smooches her full on the… well, teeth. After a friendly “boop” for her nose [cavity], he calls back, “Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”

“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by Tirzah Duncan and Danielle E. Shipley’s ‘The Dark Siren’, part of the Arcane Arts Anthology – out now as an e-book, paperbacks coming soon!

arcane-arts-cover

Necromancy killed her body, and necromancy saved her soul. Now all this living skeleton wants is for necromancy to leave her the hell alone. But with a disembodied child-spirit hanging around like a too-catchy tune, and a dread dark-artist preparing to sing the world into its final unrest, our heroine’s left with only one real option: Face the music.

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

Of Dawn’s Song and Night’s Dance

Today, for your reading pleasure: A pair of drabbles (stories exactly 100 words in length), and the images that inspired them. Enjoy!

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“So pretty,” he said. “What do you play for?”

“Not what,” she said. “Who.”

“Who, then?”

“Murmuration.”

He tilted his head. “A flock of starlings?”

She nodded hers. “That’s what she’s made of.”

“She?”

“Watch.”

She took up her violin and bowed a favorite tune. At once, the cloud of birds filled the sky – thousands upon thousands, all flying as one. Then their amorphous mass changed… took shape… became…

A woman. Murmuration danced across the dawn, rapture sketched in the living blur of her many-winged face.

“How…?” he breathed.

“How else?” she sighed. “The right song can play anything true.”

dawn-chorus_by_benco42

(Image credit: “dawn chorus” by Benco42)

<<<>>>

“Now what?” he asked, as the moon rose high. Its light shone on the water running down the rocks.

“You’ve witnessed my dawn song.” She pitched her voice over the cascade, raising her violin. “Now see what night’s music brings.”

With her bow’s dance across the strings, the silver stream came alive – came apart – came together into a choreographed company of women.

To his surprise, they took him by the hand and pulled him into their flow. He called back to her, “Is this safe?”

“Keep your head up,” she advised, “and keep breathing. My tune will do the rest.”

river_by_rob_gonsalves

(Image cred: “River” by Rob Gonsalves)

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Also, I’m still looking for folks interested in an early read ‘n’ review of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”! Hit me up if you want in. ^_^ )

Of Truth and Transformation

Today, for your reading pleasure, a pair of flash fiction pieces lately written by yours truly. Enjoy!

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Sometimes 15, sometimes 16. As early as 12 years old, as late as 20. Every body develops in its own time. But whenever the time comes, the process is the same.

They build their cocoons – of wood or of words, of cotton or of clay, of music, of color, of big, bright ideas – and they slumber.

When they awake, when they emerge, they are transformed, no two just alike.

Some are grown bigger, some grown smaller. Some are a rainbow, others clear as a bubble. Some grow scales or other armor, some soften and warm.

The lucky ones grow wings.

<<<>>>

“Hold still, Daddy! I’m making you pretty!”

“Making me pretty?” A puff of indignation. “Am I not pretty to begin with?”

An apologetic shake of the head. “No. Maybe a little handsome, but not very pretty at all.”

“Hmmph. That’s hardly fair, when you’re entirely pretty even without getting all painted up.”

A little hand pats a large one before returning to its work. “It’s okay, Daddy. You’re important things other than pretty.”

A pout. “That so?”

“Oh, yes. You’re strong, and a hard worker, and you always give me half of your molasses pies at lunch.”

A thoughtful nod. “That’s true.”

“There, then. Pretty isn’t everything – though you will be, once I’m done with you!”

A quiet smile. “I can hardly wait.”

artists__workshop_by_juliedillon-davg99l

(Image credit: “Artists’ Workshop” by juliedillon)

<<<>>>

(Enjoyed what I wrote? There’s loads more where that came from! Browse the DEShipley catalogue, why dontcha. Also, I’m still looking for folks interested in an early read ‘n’ review of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”! Hit me up if you want in. ^_^ )

How Now?

How’d the Local Author Fair at the Library Go?

Well enough, thanks very much. Sold a few books (maybe even one or two more than last year? ^^), including a couple copies of My Baby, Volume 1 – i.e., “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”. Also got to geek out with one visitor about the Renaissance Faire that inspired aforementioned baby. *waves to Bristol* So yeah, I’ll definitely be back for the 3rd annual event next year – by which time people will be able to purchase the completed Outlaws of Avalon trilogy!

local_author_fair_2017

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How Goes the New Year’s Resolution?

Those who frequent my authorial Facebook page may have seen my pledge to keep my writerly muscles warm by writing a piece of flash fiction every day.

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I have thus far remained on the wagon, with results like this, this, and the following to show for it:

He loves to make clothes. And he loves people. And the clothes he makes loves people, too.

His coats wrap their arms around you in a hug. The scarf hangs ‘round your neck with a weight like a friend just come up from behind, pulling you close for a kiss and “how are you today?”

The skirt of your dress swings and frolics about your legs, puppy-like, delighted by your nearness. The stiffer the breeze, the tighter your hat holds your head. “I’ve got you,” it says, in his voice.

The clothes and their tailor – cut from the same cloth.

Brownie points to anyone who can name the inspiration behind that little drabble. ;D And if I stay the course, there will be plenty more flash fics to come – any number of which will likely make their way onto the blog in time.

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How are ARC Requests Coming Along?

I’ve had more than zero, but would love to give out more. So if you’d like to read and review an advance PDF of Outlaws of Avalon 2, “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”, get in touch! (Contact page) Got book blogger friends? Give ‘em the heads up! I can only spread the word so far on my own; any added reach would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading, and now inquiring minds want to know: How are YOU?

Second Time’s the Charm

Two orders of business today in this, my second blog post of the new year.

1 = Cook Memorial Public Library District is hosting its 2nd annual open house for local authors – and I’mma be there! Selling books. Signing books. Seeming generally delightful, if all goes to plan.

So if any of you think you’ll find yourself around Vernon Hills, IL, this Saturday (Jan. 14), drop in at the Aspen Drive branch any time from 2:30 to 4pm. Here’s hoping the event goes even better than last year’s!

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2 = CALLING ALL WILLING BOOK-REVIEWERS! We’re only two months away from the launch of the 2nd book in the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy – “The Marriage of Allyn-a-Dale”. We made its beautiful cover happen thanks to folks stepping forward with GoFundMe dollars. Now the help I’m looking for won’t cost anyone a cent.

marriage-cover-final-front

If you (yes, you, sir/madam/your majesty) want to read and review an ARC (advance reader/review copy) of the latest adventure in Avalon Faire, just declare your interest – in the comments below, or via my contact page – and I’ll send you a PDF.

You: “Oh, cool! What’s the book about, again?”

The blurb: “There’s more than Fey magic in the air as Avalon Faire prepares for another summer’s performance. This time the show stars Allyn-a-Dale in his role from stories of old: A minstrel with a forbidden romance in need of a little outlaw intervention. Alas, eternal life imitates art as Allyn finds himself slipping heart-first into ill-advised infatuation with an Outsider – the Robin Hood fangirl who’s landed her dream job as the Merry Minstrel’s wife.

As new love blooms, an old love festers, the scarring shadow of Allyn’s dead father threatening to devastate the young minstrel’s hard-won harmony. And elsewhere on the undying isle, the cracks of immortality are beginning to show. Caught between the mysterious meddling of Morganne le Fey and the wild schemes of Will Scarlet, it’s up to Sherwood’s outlaws to navigate past and future, legend and prophecy, treachery and passion, before Avalon is torn apart from the inside out.”

You: “Nice! But um, what if I haven’t read the first book yet?”

Me: “Ballad”s been up for sale for months. Getchu a copy! Or, if you’re flat broke (we’ve all been there), I can slip you a PDF of that as well; just leave an honest review for Book 1, too, and we’ll call it totally square. 😉

And that, my friends, is that. Clamor away for those ARCs, and stay tuned for the word on how the library event goes. ^o^