To my readership in the U.S., Happy Independence Day, one day late! And Happy Release Day, one week early, to “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”!
Today marks the end of the pre-order campaign, though you can still pre-order the e-book (Amazon… Smashwords… Barnes & Noble…) right up until next week, at which time the gorgeous paperback will launch into official availability as well. In the meanwhile…
1) “Ballad” and I had the pleasure of being featured on the Clockwork Bibliophile blog of Shannon Haggerty. Enjoy the interview at your leisure; it’s a good’un.
2) As a last hurrah before the BIG hurrah, it’s time for one more [abridged] sneak peek into the book!
Having worked with a professional man-o’-music once or twice before (hi-i-i, Gant-o’-the-Lute), I knew going into the writing of “Ballad” that a novel centering around Robin Hood’s legendary minstrel would by necessity feature its share of music. That means the lyrical prose which, to hear the remarks of reviewers, has become something of a Danielle E. Shipley signature – not to mention literal lyrics, every time Allyn informed his author it was time to insert a song.
The following excerpt showcases the non-literal, narrative kind of lyricism as our protagonist finds himself out of the world he knew and inside the magical world of Avalon Faire. Our first sneak peek gave of us a glimpse of the isle’s Renaissance Faire disguise. Below, if you keep quiet in the trees, you’ll get an eyeful – and an earful – of the true, Fey heart of the place…
It was quiet here. Or he’d thought it so, at first. But Allyn felt, even before his ears quite heard, the faintest strains of music. It did not sound as if the music’s source could be too far off. And even if it were, what had Allyn to lose by turning to follow it? So follow he did, over the weighty, flat land, through the sharp, colorless wood, until the trees thinned almost to ending, and Allyn could make out the lawn beyond, and the people gathered upon it.
Such people! And yet at first, Allyn was hardly aware of them, so enthralled was he by the sound of their music. High and sweet as the love songs of courting birds, the melody of pipes and flutes lilted through the air. Beneath, an aural tapestry of lusty color and texture, woven by the strings. The light percussive beat of drums and bells kept the frolicsome time to which the men and women danced around a leaping fire, and it was their dancing that made Allyn-a-Dale take note of them at last.
[…] No humans he had ever seen could dance as these people could — so full of spirited, easy grace, in spite of this ground which pulled so hard. And yet, if they were not human, then Allyn could not begin to guess what they were. Not winds, from his limited experience; the evening air held calm around them. Nor was there any golden glow of the Sun in them, though Allyn might have conceded a touch of starlight about their night-dark skin. And what, Allyn wondered, as his gaze focused in closer to their ethereal faces, was he supposed to make of their ears? One and all, their ears tapered up into a dainty, leaf-like point.
…No, not all. There was one among them whose ears were wholly unremarkable — or, in the context of the others with her, quite the opposite. Her lithe figure danced along the inner circle of the lawn, her gown swirling just out of reach of the fire. Her long curls fell around her in a dark cascade, nearly black but for the subtle sheen of gold the firelight revealed. Her eyes, too, were of darkest gold, and all but caused Allyn to gasp aloud when he realized they were staring right at him.
Her look was difficult to understand. She appeared neither surprised to see the youth watching from the wood, nor in any way offended. She did not even appear curious. The look she gave him seemed to say, “I see you” — nothing more. And Allyn hadn’t the least idea how he was meant to react.
“Go over there and introduce yourself, of course,” he could hear Father say. “Give her the ol’ minstrel hello!”
The minstrel hello, Allyn repeated, lips twitching their way into something betwixt a smile and a grimace of exasperation. Is there anything that minstrels do not have in a category all to themselves?
“Nothing at all,” Father’s voice laughed. “We’re special that way.”
Allyn shook his head. I’ll not force myself upon festivities to which I’ve not been expressly invited, he thought. However, we might see what may be done in the way of a minstrel hello.
After first pulling a little further back into the trees, his bashful spirit still unsure whether he truly wanted his presence known, Allyn withdrew his lute from its place at his back. Then, his heart’s rhythm aligned to the drums of the sharp-eared folk, their harmonies washing over and through him like a gentle rain, softly — reverentially — he began to join in their song.
Could they hear it, he wondered? Or sense it, this new line of lutesong threading its way through the established tapestry of the strings? If yes, would they welcome it? If no, would he care? If all he did tonight was become a part of the music — if not a part of the company of music-makers — and no one anywhere but he himself was aware of it, would that not, if only for these few minutes, be enough?
Here I am, new world, his fingers played his shy minstrel hello. Wherever I am, I’m here.
And we, too, can say “hello” to the new, magical world of Avalon Faire in just one! More! Week!
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.
Coming July 12!
P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!