“Weird” or “Y’know, It Could Be That Some Fiction *Is* Stranger Than Truth…”

I’ve got friends in high-ish places who handed me a book and asked for my thoughts. And since my head happened to have a few thoughts to spare, today, I figured I’d be a pal and comply.

The Book: “Leap Day” by Mozart (via Twin Wicks Publishing).

Genre: A short story collection with a bent toward the paranormal.

Blurb (…well, more like a general description): Each episode is largely unrelated (though two of the tales, including that which shares the anthology’s title, do specifically refer to February 29th – or “the missing day”, as one story reverently calls it). However, a common thread throughout the book is the unexplained. Many of the plotlines start out as seemingly ordinary, only to unfurl into the implausible, often with more questions raised than fully answered. The result is a surreal climate in which reader imagination has ample room to speculate as to the cause and full effect of the mysteries presented.

My Thoughts: As a whole, I found the book to be an interesting journey, reminiscent of a guided tour of a haunted house. I would have preferred that the book include a table of contents. And regrettably, I was frequently distracted by missing commas and other such typographical errors, suggestive of inadequate line editing. I have seen worse in this area, but I should be seeing better. Even so, there was one story which so engaged me that all thoughts of literary mechanics briefly vanished, and that was “The Bridge”. Vying for my second and third favorites are “DOC-V” and “Andrea”, I believe because I felt that these three stories had the most to offer in terms of deep character interaction (whereas other tales dealt more with isolated introspection).

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): If you like your fiction head-tilting weird (in both the “of a strikingly odd or unusual character; strange” and “of, relating to, or suggestive of the preternatural or supernatural” senses), you may want to give this book a read. The e-book is available on Smashwords and the Amazon Kindle store.

“Social Media” or “The Post I Drafted After 7 Straight Hours on Facebook *facepalm*”

Today’s topic among the bloggin’ Buccaneers crew? Social Media: Share your feelings and opinions about “forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)” and it’s relation to writing and reading.

(That’s exactly how they phrased it, too. Clearly, they’ve been spending time at merriam-webster.com. *more-or-less straight-faced nodding*)

Anyway, let’s talk about the pros and cons of social media, as I see them.

Pros:

Sticking your name, face, and book-related chat everyplace makes it easy for your potential audience to stalk you. Not stalk in a creepy way, I clarify; creepy stalking would go under “cons”. But it’s easier to get fans if people know you exist, and fans sometimes like to know what’s going on with the people they’re, um, fanning on. So in that sense, author accessibility is an upward spiral of win-win.

It gets introverted authors to stick their noses out of their little hermit caves. My little hermit cave is actually very nice. The decorators did a stellar job. The notion of holing up in there forever is not entirely unappealing. But it probably wouldn’t be entirely healthy, either – any more than dumping me into a bottomless pit full of people would be. Hanging out on Facebook and on people’s blogs is a good compromise. It’s interaction, but with less of the pressure of immediacy. You can take more time deciding on your responses, or whether you even wish to respond at all. (No one expects you to comment on every single status and post. But try just blinking past someone who’s said something to your face and see how well that goes.)

Posting stuff can be fun. Even if not everyone always responds, some people do sometimes, and laughs/engaging conversation/whatever can be had.

It’s a hobby. *shrug*

Anyone else looking at this getting a rush of antsy claustrophobia,
or is that just me?

Cons:

It’s a black hole. If you don’t watch the clock, you can quite easily end up losing what might otherwise have been productive hours to the insatiable internet. Sure, depending on exactly what you’re doing, you could justify your social media time as more or less productive. But hey, you know what’s even more productive? The creation of actual product. In the case of authors, that means writing books, not statuses. Your WIP needs those 140 characters more than Twitter does. Think of all the starving novels in Africa.

Twitchily wondering if you’ve received any notifications since the last time you checked (a minute-and-a-half ago) gets old fast. How am I supposed to live my writerly life to the fullest if I keep getting pop-ups announcing that a dozen people I don’t know commented on some photo I made the misstep of emoti-commenting on? Author at work! Leave me in peace! I’m trying to concentrate!

hav u noticed how its effecting our spelling n grammerz, lol, :P? …Wow, that was really painful to type. Seriously, I don’t mind if/when I can tell that it’s all in good fun. But when people don’t seem to realize it’s a joke, I worry. Furthermore… well, I feel my blog pal The Hyperteller expressed it really well in an article, once, so it’s really annoying that I can’t seem to access it. But to paraphrase the bejeebers out of it, the idea was that relying on “like” buttons and smileys to express our opinions is lazy expression at best, and not really expressive at worst. I’m probably about as guilty of such overuse as the next person. I plead storing up my full creative powers to unleash on my novels, story stories, et ceteraz.

Its importance has been over-hyped. People will tell you that you can’t be a writer in this day and age and NOT have a full arsenal of social media accounts. They’re wrong. Maybe it will make some aspects of your career more difficult. Maybe somebody, somewhere, will be annoyed, I dunno. But if you get right down to it, the only thing you absolutely need as a writer is to have written something. That’s the bare minimum. Everything else is extra. Friends don’t let friends Tweet and write…unless they’re capable of putting writing first*, and social media second*.

(*These numbers are meant only to represent these two objects in relation to each other. If things like your family, health, and eternal soul don’t take precedence over Facebook, your priority list needs an overhaul.)

To sum up, then: I think social media can be great, so long as you don’t let it flush your life down the loo. Anyone care to corroborate or contradict?

“War” or “Make Love (or Awesome Books Worth Loving) Instead”

Eli’s back!!! Not that the blog’s hyperventilating with excitement, or anything… *pant, pant, pant*

The bloggin’ Buccaneers have yet another outrageous demand: “Recommend or review a book of choice. Tell the interwebz why you love it!

Well, they’ve got the timing of a sea captain’s finest chronoscope, because there just happens to be a book I’ve been wanting to rave about.

The Book: “The Spirit War” by Rachel Aaron.

Genre: Fantasy adventure.

Blurb (because I seem to be incapable of just saying, “It’s about X and Y, and then Z happens.” Oh, no, I’ve gotta be all authorial about it.):

In a world where everything from doors to swords to grains of sand has a living spirit… they all adore Eli Monpress, rogue wizard and self-proclaimed greatest thief in the world. But as much as the everyday spirits love Eli, no one loves him more – or with more dangerous obsession – than the Shepherdess, Benehime, a formidable power with a disturbing lack of attention to responsibility. She’ll pull any stunt to get her favorite back where she wants him, even if it means letting the inexorable Immortal Empress loose on a world with no might to oppose her.

Preparing to make a stand nonetheless is the island of Osera. Its people beat back the Empress’s armies once before, and they are determined to do it again, with help from their truant prince. There is, however, one small complication: That prince is none other than infamous swordsman Joseph Lichten, accomplice and friend of a certain wizard-thief. The price on his head is now higher than Eli’s, and if anyone thinks Eli’s pride will allow him to take the situation lying down, they may have another think coming.

My Thoughts: I did not want this book to end – particularly not on the note that it did! There’s little I can say without giving it all away, but just know that the final pages of this fourth book in the Eli Monpress series had me craving Book Five even more than I already was. (“Spirit’s End”, coming in November 2012!)

For those who wanted a “state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties” story, this book delivers on its title’s promise. There are plenty of political head games throughout, and nail-biter battles as the conclusion draws near. There’s also a healthy dose of familial dysfunction, treason and treachery, and enough emotional warfare going on within characters’ own selves to rival the action happening on Osera’s front lines. Readers may even see some characters of which they’ve grown fond meet tragic ends ere the book’s close; certainly, one of the losses hit me rather hard. But, as I’ve been heard to say, the threat doesn’t seem real if nobody dies.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): I’ve yet to come across an installment of the Eli Monpress series that I don’t think you should read. Whatever you’re waiting for, knock it off and buy the book. …Unless what you’re waiting for is to have read the first three books, in which case, knock it off and buy the omnibus.

“Booker” or “More Book…? Not Sure It Really Matters, Since ‘Book’ Isn’t Much Used as an Adjective”

Four blog posts in as many days? Seriously?? Am I out of my Ever-On-Word-bloggin’ mind?!

Well, yeah. But as regards my packed blogging schedule this week, I can explain myself.

It was gonna just be the Buccaneer Blogfest posts and my “Superhero” post that I was just too excited about to let sit in my queue any longer. But then came a pleasant surprise in the form of an award from fellow Buccaneer Kendra of the Flame Writer blog. And as both the award and this Buccaneer Blogfest week are totally book-related, it seemed meet to me that today be the day I formally accept…

(That’s “The {Booker} Award: For those who refuse to live in the real world”, in case the pic’s not showing up, for whatever Technology Fiend-instigated reason.)

Quoting Kendra on the rules: “To receive this award, the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is OK). Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books. (More than five is OK.) You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.”

I mentioned the titles of several favorite books during Monday’s biblio-psych session. Here’s my chance to go into a bit more detail as to why those books are by m’self so much beloved.

Montmorency” (and sequels) by Eleanore Updale – History YA fiction that actually doesn’t have many characters in the young-adult age range. When we first meet Montmorency, he’s just a young man, age unspecified. Old enough to serve a term in prison, evidently, and then go out and steal his way into an independent Victorian London gentleman’s lifestyle, with help from his scruffy alter-ego, Scarper. I love reliving his dual persona, public transformation, and adventures, and re-meeting his varied and interesting friends (including a kind doctor, a jovial spy, and a clever gal plucked from the gutter) and enemies (among them… well, a bunch of really dangerous people). I like these books more than words can satisfactorily convey. Hey, You Should Read Them.

The Story Girl” by L.M. Montgomery – Kids being old-school kids on the picturesque Prince Edward Island (a locale which came to fictional prominence via another Montgomery work, “Anne of Green Gables”). The largely episodic escapades of Beverley (the narrator and, despite what the name may have had you first assume, a boy), his brother and cousins, and of course Sarah Stanley (a.k.a. the titular Story Girl, so called for her mad storytelling skillz) are all innocent hilarity. I loved the sequel, too, but for some reason, I don’t own it. I must remedy that.

The Bonemender” (and sequels) by Holly Bennett – The term “bonemender” equating to “healer”, and referring to main heroine Gabrielle, daughter of monarchs, sister to one of my favorite literary princes (*takes a brief moment to sigh over Tristan*), and friend to a wonderful bunch of elves. (Significantly more than friends to one of them, actually.) Again, most of the characters are adults – which, according to the principles of biblio-psych, suggests that I like books by adults, about adults, that aren’t so much written to adults. (My “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” falls into that category.) So, yeah. A fantasy adventure with characters I adore. Good stuff.

The Frog Princess” by E.D. Baker – The old “Frog Prince” fairytale gets an overhaul. Princess Emeralda of Greater Greensward kisses a frog claiming to be Prince Eadric of Upper Montevista, and… oops, now they’re both frogs. (If this sounds eerily similar to Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” to you, nice call; the movie was loosely inspired by the book.) Magical mayhem ensues for several books to come. (The first three are my favorite, though I only own 1 and 4). I take multiple moments to grin goofily over Eadric. (Yeah, yeah, thieves and princes. Throw in a minstrel and a fox, and you’ve got me fourfold.) And Emma and Eadric are actually young adults, so ha! (Not sure who the laugh’s on, but ha anyway!)

And for my fifth, I select The Outlaws of Sherwood” by Robin McKinley – …Which I totally talked about yesterday, so there you go.

And now for my Booker Award nominees!

Amanda Foody of It’s All in My Head

Amy of Chasing the Crazies

Ariel K. Price

Ash Silverlock of Fabulous Realms

And Leigh Townsend of Butterflies and Dragons (whose name doesn’t start with my beautiful pattern letter “A”, so thank my obsessive-compulsive stars for “And”)

Congratulations, honored recipients! Thanks again, Kendra! Happy reading, booklovers everywhere, and may your lives be even booker than ever they were. (:

“Favorite” or “Literary Folk I Adore and/or Admire… and, Oh Yeah, Those People Who Wrote Them”

The ship’s rail at my back. A blade at my throat. Sweat beads on my brow as I strive not to swallow. My eyes locked on the pair glinting opposite mine, I croak, “What d’ye want of me, ye soulless scalawag?!”

Leaning in so close I can sniff the rum on her mind, the dread captain snarls, “Who are your favorite authors and why?

For such are the life-and-death questions presented to we who sail under the flag of the jolly Buccaneer Blogfest.

Now, I don’t know how most people settle on their favorite authors, but me? I’m a character nut. So if an author writes a book that introduces me to a character I love, that author’s earned him/herself some serious “liked or preferred above all others; regarded with special favor” points. That being said, let’s compile a quick list – say, the first three I feel like writing about.

Author: Rachel Aaron. Book(s): The Spirit Thief and sequels. Character(s): Eli Monpress.

I’ve raved about his book here, and I’ll rave about another of his books two days from now, but to succinctly summarize, wizard thief Eli Monpress is my literary crush du jour, and I love Rachel Aaron for having written him into my life. I like a bunch of her other characters, too, when I can pry my attention away from Eli. And I like Rachel’s style – light, humorous adventure-fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously…unless things are getting serious, in which case they get serious hardcore, and you may be up all night turning pages. What I’ve seen of her on the internet has also convinced me that she’s just a generally awesome person. So take it all round, I’m a shameless Rachel Aaron fan.

Author: Robin McKinley. Book(s): The Outlaws of Sherwood. Character(s): The eponymous outlaws of Sherwood.

If memory serves, this was the book that made me go limp and doe-eyed over all things Robin Hood. I’ve read and enjoyed other work from her, as well (“Beauty” and “Sunshine” come to mind), but none of them took over my imagination the way “Outlaws” has. I’m not even sure I can properly express why I love her take on the Merry Men so much. I just got this really great sense of camaraderie – and it blended so beautifully with the way she presented their world, so that story and characters felt inseparable to me, if that makes a lick of sense to anybody – to the point where part of me wanted to go back to the days of King Richard and get myself run off my lands by Nottingham’s Sheriff, just so I could chill in the greenwood with Robin and the gang. I try not to let that part of me do the decision-making.

Author: Tirzah Duncan. Book(s): “Ever Actor”, plus some short stories. Character(s): Syawn, and Rowtan.

Sometimes I’m so busy considering her my best friend and writing buddy, I forget that she’s a legit author, too. An as-yet unpublished author, true, but no less an author for that. And in fact, I don’t know that we would have ever met, were it not for her novel’s MC, Sy. But fortune smiled upon me, for I read a quick bio about a thief lord whose name meant “fox”, and I was all over it. (This post is perhaps being too subtle about it for all but the keenest to grasp, but I have a pronounced attraction to thieves. …And I like foxes.) It was only after further familiarizing myself with her book (which has a new Facebook page, didja know?) that I likewise became a fan of her powerful mage, Rowtan. And now I hang with all three of them all the time in our imaginary pillow fort. Wouldn’t it be the coolest if we could do that with all our favorite authors? (:

Which literary faves would you hang in a pillow fort with, if you could?

“Superhero” or “What Separates the Batmen from the LarryBoys”

From “The Avengers” to “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Dark Knight Rises”, movie-goers are certainly getting their superhero hookup this summer – to which I say, huzzah! And I’m not alone. Mainstreamers, diehard nerds, in-betweenies chillin’ in the gray area (like myself), most everyone loves a superhero. But not everyone can agree on what, exactly, a superhero is.

My faithful dictionary defines the word as “a figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime”. But does that tell the whole story? Or is there more or less to it than that? Just what is it that puts the “super” and “hero” in “superhero”?

I’m very glad you asked. (If you didn’t actually ask, I don’t have to know, just nod and claim the credit.)

“And when everyone’s super… no one will be.” – Syndrome
Superpower Points: Gadgets only. Doesn’t count.
Hero Points: He couldn’t even defeat the killer robot he created and sicced on the city in a villainous act of staged heroism. You can’t fail much harder than that.

Power to the People

Superhuman: “Above or beyond the human; preternatural or supernatural” or “beyond ordinary or normal human ability, power, or experience”.

If just any old person could do it, it wouldn’t be considered super. Spider-Man skittering up walls? It wouldn’t impress any spiders, because they can all do that. But for a human, that’s pretty darn extraordinary.

So my apologies to Batman, Iron Man, and their crowd, but those guys are not technically superheroes. They are fabulously wealthy people with incredibly dangerous toys, and they use those toys (and, in the case of Batman, mad ninja skills) for the side of right. Commendable, absolutely. But not the sort of thing you’d need a just-shy-of-lethal dose of radiation to accomplish.

“Everyone’s a hero in their own way.” – Captain Hammer
Superpower Points: Some measure of super-strength and
physical invulnerability, I believe. Fill me in if I’m missing something,
“Dr Horrible” fans.
Hero Points: Only if humanity’s in dire need of a super jerk/doofus.

The Hero Blog Land Deserves (If Not the One It Needs, Right Now…)

Hero: “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.”

By previous definition, not everyone can have superpowers; but anyone can be a hero, if they’ve got a hero’s heart. If they’re willing to stand against the bad guys for the little guys, even if they’re little guys themselves (à la Steve Rogers before he became Captain America). If they’re man, woman, or freak enough to take on impossible odds in the name of all the good in this world worth fighting for (thinking of you, Samwise Gamgee). Heroes lay down their own safety so they’ve got their hands free to put up their dukes, but more than that: They do it for the right reasons.

I’ve yet to be convinced that the Incredible Hulk counts as a hero. Oh, he’s undeniably super; the green skin, single bounds over buildings, and smashing prowess pretty much let that cat out of the bag. However, when you seem to spend as much time chasing the good guys as attacking the bad guys, that doesn’t look like heroism; that looks like a loose cannon that we can only hope fires in the direction we want more often than it fires on us. A little righteous anger in a hero can be a good thing. Blind, roaring rage, not so much.

“I am that hero!” – LarryBoy
Superpower Points: Is being an animate cucumber a superpower? Debatable.
Hero Points: Check! He’s risked his wellbeing in the name of public veggie safety on multiple occasions.
Theme Song Bonus Points: CG or 2D animation version – either one is catchy.

That, as I see it, is what makes a superhero. What are your thoughts?

Which heroes (super or otherwise) are your favorites?

Where in the world were the rest of New York’s superheroes when the Avengers were battling Loki ‘n’ ‘em? (Don’t tell me the X-Men, Spidey, and the Fantastic Four were all on vacation at once!)

“Biblio-psych” or “What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?”

The nosy, nautical types at the Buccaneer Blogfest want to know: What books are on my shelf?

In the name of semi-thoroughness, I popped over to my little black bookcases (which represent only a fraction of my reading collection sprawled all over this house) to scribble out a quick inventory. And in so doing, my inner analyst began musing on how my hoard of reading material lined up with the principles of biblio-psychology (which, as far as either of us know, is not a legit branch of study… meaning we should totally make it so and earn a PhD. Boo-yah).

So: What do the books on my shelf say about me?

Calvin and Hobbes collections – I’ll be made an old, boring grownup over my dead body.

Heavily illustrated books about da Vinci, architecture, and the gardens of Versailles – A couple of my WIP’s young MCs may have been holding the wallet during these particular shopping trips. Logan’s more into da Vinci than I’ll ever be, and his best friend’s the architecture/Versailles fanatic.

Novelizations of “Van Helsing”, “King Kong”, “The Fantastic 4”, and the “Spider-Man” trilogy – I don’t just like to watch movies; I like to read ‘em!

Diagnosis: Murder mysteries by Lee Goldberg – I like my death with a side of Dick van Dyke (or at least his great character, Dr. Mark Sloan).

Liz Curits Higgs’ “Lowlands of Scotlandseries – I’m a Christian romantic with sucker spots for both old stories made new and Scottish accents.

Bookshelves: The windows to your psyche.
(Image Cred, Shelterness Frames via The Painted Nook)

Pride and Prejudice”, Marvel’s graphic novelization of the same, and “Mr. Darcy’s Diary” by Amanda Grange – I like spending time at Pemberley.

5 “Princess Diaries” volumes by Meg Cabot – I enjoyed Princess Mia’s high school drama all right, but not enough to pay for the whole series.

The first 4 “Sword of Truth” novels by Terry Goodkind – I love you, Richard, but I cannot take much more of the rambling nightmare that is your life.

The “Twilight” saga, novella, and Part 1 of the graphic novel – I must’ve gotten into the series before it got huge, because there’s no way I’d get in so deep once it was cemented as a cultural phenomenon. (I realize I’ll be waiting a while for the “Harry Potter” craze to die down…)

4 retellings of the Robin Hood legend – I must be keeping the fifth and sixth in my room.

A slough of longtime favorites (The “Montmorency series, “The Story Girl, the “Bonemender” trilogy, “The Frog Princess); a ton of titles picked up at book fairs during my school librarian days (largely unread, though delightful standouts include “The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, “Dragon Slippers, and “Skulduggery Pleasant); myths, fantasies, fairytales, picture books, two books of baby names, and a bound set of jigsaws puzzles featuring the art of Monet – My philosophy: There’s no such thing as too many books!

And what of you, readers? What about your innermost selves might your biblio-psychoanalysis reveal?

“Origin” or “How I Ended Up Airing Some Fantastic Dirty Laundry”

The question on deck for the Blogfest Buccaneers: Share your light bulb moment with us. How did you come up with the idea for your WIP?

As is somewhat usual with me, it was a long, meandering train of thought

The “point at which something comes into existence or from which it derives or is derived” of my tale was a character (that’s usual with me, too) – or rather, two of them. The first was a kinda strange lady, and as I lay waiting to fall asleep one night, I mulled over why that could be. I don’t recall when I figured it out, but it had to have been before December of I-forget-the-year, because by the time I’d started in on a collection of Christmas-centric short stories (one of which some of you may remember from this post), I knew what she was. More than that, I knew what a whole bunch of characters in that story world were, and – surprise on me – the answer wasn’t human.

(You know it’s time to switch your genre to fantasy when…)

Meanwhile, in another part of my head, the second, related character was bugging me to let him write a tell-all on his side of the story he didn’t feel was doing him justice. I let him rant for 200-some pages, then stepped in to rewrite it as a more focused memoir. That project sat in the Possibly Salvageable Junk Pile for a good while, along with the first few sorry pages from a companion story.

Fast-forward to early this year, when – after some enthusiastic encouragement from writing-buddy Tirzah – I felt I was finally ready to tackle this old monster project in a new form: A trilogy spanning three generations of one hilarious, heartbreaking, mega-dysfunctional, truly phenomenal family. Strangeness will be explained. Tell-all will all-told. Many of my earliest characters left for years in authorial storage will finally get some time in the sun, as well as plenty of time in the dark.

I’m quite pleased with and proud of the work I’ve done so far, and am looking forward to finishing strong and sharing this beautiful beast with the world! I think fans of YA urban fantasy/paranormal stuff are gonna like it. (:

“Scarlet” or “Give Him an Inch, and He’ll Talk a Mile a Minute”

Today’s Buccaneer Blogfest mission, if I choose to accept it (and I do), is a bit of merriment known as the character interview.

People who’ve been around the blog a few times know that conversations with characters are right up my alley; I’ve even let a few of them guest blog for me. (Thanks again, Bruno, Allyn, and Lute.) And once I’d done that… well, I kind of sealed my fate.

Y’see, I’ve got this character. Goes by the name of Will Scarlet. Perhaps you’ve seen him on the “Ballad” page. Harder not to have seen him, if you follow the page. He’s a talker, an attention hog, and has been begging me to let him have his own blog for months. That’s not happening. I don’t have the time. But since I’ll be sitting down for a chat with a character today, it may as well be him. (I’d not soon hear the end of it, otherwise.)

Better cut this introduction short, since I know his answers won’t be. Scarlet, come on down!

Will: Yes! Right! Awesome! Hello, everyone, you all look beautiful – I mean that!

Me: You can’t see them.

Will: Maybe I meant “beautiful on the inside”. It’s not all about looks, Danielle, no matter how hot mine are. So! What questions have you got for me?

Me: Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit – A LITTLE BIT, Will – about who you are?

Will: I’m an outlaw undercover at a Renaissance Faire that’s actually Avalon. (Y’know, Arthurian legend? That Avalon.) Anyway, back to me, I’m one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men. Yes, THE Robin Hood. I’m his cousin, as well as his left-hand man, you might say, since Little John snagged the title of right-hand man, and I’m left-handed anyway, so that all works out. I’m also the brains of the group.

Me: Really, Will? You’re actually claiming that?

Will: Well, I mean, not that the others aren’t smart, too. Robin with his leadership savvy, and Marion all on top of interpersonal relations, and Allyn the musical genius, and Little John… well, he’s just big, isn’t he? Intelligent enough, but mostly huge. And quiet. It’s creepy. And okay, so I don’t always act like the brains of the band – or even necessarily like I’ve got a brain in my head. But I totally do! I’d like to see any of the others think up half the stuff I do! Who do they turn to when they need a plan fast? You’re looking at him. Particularly if it’s to do with the Outsiders—

Me: Hold right there. Tell us about the Outsiders.

Will: What? Oh. You know. You people. The modern folks who live outside of Avalon. The awesome ones with computers. Sure, Merlin’s got a computer, too, but what good does that do me? He never lets me use it. I need an iPhone.

Me: Okay, we’re quickly losing the thread of it. Let’s back it up. Now, my dictionary defines “scarlet” as “a strong to vivid red or reddish orange” or “flagrantly immoral or unchaste”. Any of this come into play when you chose your outlaw name?

Will: The red bit, mostly. I love red; so bright and expensive. And my hair’s got some scarlet blended in with the gold, so that’s all very apt. As for flagrant immorality and unchastity—

Me: Not a word.

Will: Coining it. —Well, it’s a bit of a “yes and no”, there. I can be a gentleman, when absolutely necessarily. When it’s not, then God save you. All in good fun, though, you understand.

Me: Yeah, that’d be a “yes and no”, too. Next question: What do you like best about being in the Merry Men?

Will: Um, being awesome? Come on, look at this gig: I got to be a thief led and sanctioned by the most honorable man I know; I get to be practically immortal (did you know that, readers? By virtue of dying a heroic death back in the Middle Ages, and with a little help from Avalonian magic, I get to be eternally young forever! #Winning!); I get to play myself in a Renaissance Faire; I look really good; I—

Me: What does looking good have to do with being a Merry Man?

Will: I don’t know, maybe not much. But muscles developed in fighting for our lives have to help, right? And the glow of fame?

Me: Sure, Will. Last question: Why do you think people should read “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”, once it’s published? …Besides the fact that you’re in it.

Will: Ha-ha! Preempted! Well, how about this: Action! Adventure! Mystery! Suspense! Magic and music, witty dialogue, and an all-star cast (naming no names in particular, apparently). I had a rousing time living it, so they’re bound to love reading it. Plus Allyn’s in it. I can mention Allyn, right? He’s not me, and he’s awesome.

Me: Yes, mentioning Allyn is fine. Thanks for your time, Will. It’s been… breathless.

Will: Yes, I do tend to have that effect on women. Pleasure mine, Danielle. Great to be here. An honor just to be nominated.

Me: …Right.

Once everyone out there finds a space to slip a word in edgewise, if you have any additional questions or comments for Will, toss ‘em below. He’ll be only too happy to respond.

“Overture” or “One if on Minstrels, Two if on Sea…”

Today’s assignment  (*cough* yesterday’s *cough* but I did give warning of the excellently-excused delay) aboard the Buccaneer Blogest: Share the first paragraph of my novel or WIP (“work-in-progress”, for any landlubbers unfamiliar with writerly slang). That means that you all get to see the opening of my golden child, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”! (Don’t get jealous, other novels o’ mine; you know I love you all dearly, and your sunshine time will come.)

‘Fessing up: This is more technically the first two paragraphs of “Ballad”s “introductory section or part, as of a poem; a prelude” (because in a book as musical as a minstrel’s, we can’t just call it a “prologue”). But as has been previously mentioned, I am a rebel pirate. And as you’ll see below, using only the first paragraph would have felt like shameless skimping. So please don’t keelhaul me.

~ <<>> ~

Ellie fought the growing urge to panic.

Surrounding her were creatures of every imaginable kind. Beings that stood some twenty feet tall, and held smaller people in their power, forcing them to dance like dolls on strings. Cloaked figures with dragons perched on their shoulders that would turn their eerie reptilian heads to follow the progress of passersby. Women in leather corsets. Women in silken gowns. Women decked out in tunics, capes, and (perhaps exclusive to Ellie) a hat which may have been meant for a cowboy, once, but which now boasted one side of the brim sewn up to the crown, along with a big flourish of a red feather.

~ <<>> ~

            Your thoughts, readers? ^^ Would the opening tempt you to read further, or to throw the book across the room? What does it make you think, and how does it make you feel? Does this mishmash of “Ballad” and piracy make you want to hear a rollicking tune about a minstrel sea captain? I know it does, me! And so I leave you with this: “The Shanty of Allyn-a-Dale”, written/performed/produced by D.E.Shipley (as seen on the “Ballad” Facebook page! …Meaning if the video’s link decides to act funny, there’s more than one way to skin the ship’s cat).